Clause 115

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 10th February 2011.

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Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge 1:30 pm, 10th February 2011

I beg to move amendment 579, in clause 115, page 77, leave out lines 31 to 33.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Benton. The aim of the amendment is to understand the purpose of the extension from four to seven days. We have already discussed the conditions attached to temporary event notices. These things become more a problem, the longer the temporary events are.

We have heard of temporary events that are not really events, but more a way of bypassing licensing conditions. One example that has been raised concerned a Tesco that had failed to put in an application early enough, and we all agree that that is not really what is intended.

The longer a temporary event gets, the greater the likelihood that there will be concerns, as well as friction between operators, police, councils and the local community, and the more useful the conditions become. The issue is of great concern, for example, to the Local Government Association, which I have the honour to serve as a vice-president. I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on why seven days are better than four.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am in the unusual position of putting my name to an amendment tabled by the Liberal Democrats. I wish to push the issue a little further than the hon. Member for Cambridge. I want to explore further with the Minister the evidence that has been produced to justify the clause extending the number of hours a temporary event notice can cover from 96 to 168 and the number of days in any calendar year that single premises can be used from 15 to 21.

It is certainly a concern that a temporary event notice could cover seven days. There is concern about the effects in different parts of the country. Putting on an event for seven days in the middle of the countryside is very different from having an event in a village or urban setting, where neighbours are close by. We are particularly concerned about the extension of the limit from four days to seven, which could result in more contentious and costly disputes between operators, police, councils and the local community. The conditions attached to  TENs will be limited, so temporary events might be held in unlicensed premises for up to seven days, with no conditions attached, because of the licensing authority’s inability to impose them. Extending the duration of TENs could therefore create another way in which to circumnavigate the licensing conditions that would usually be attached to events that take place over a number of days. We are anxious to know why the Government have made such provisions, and on what evidence they are based.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 1:45 pm, 10th February 2011

I shall address the principal points arising from this short debate, which are about protection and the reasons for the change. The provision to relax the statutory time limit will particularly benefit certain types of applicants for TENs. Touring theatres, voluntary groups and touring circuses are a hallmark of community life and community spirit. They have told us that they are losing business and income by having to break for 24 hours half way through a week-long event because of the existing law. The new limit of 168 hours will allow such organisations to run events for a week without a break in the middle.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

That helps to explain why that figure has been suggested. However, has the Minister considered a different approach? Theatre groups or circuses do not need to run 24-hour, continuous activities, so could there be provision to allocate hours from, say, 9 am until 11.30 pm as part of the TEN? Such a provision would prevent a situation arising in which 24-hour raves, for example, run continuously for seven days.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)

Our approach will ensure that the measure is not too bureaucratic. The system proposed by the hon. Lady might be complex, because if we specify certain hours, we begin to go down the track of a normal licence. As she will know, TENs were meant to be non-bureaucratic and simple in format and approach. Extending the hours takes account of the community and touring organisations that benefit many communities. We have introduced the change to deregulate and to assist that sense of community spirit. We recognise, however, the negative aspect, so we have extended the right to object to a TEN to the environmental health authority.

At present the police are allowed to object to a TEN only on the basis of crime prevention, but the measure will enable them, and environmental health officers, to object on the basis of all the licensing objectives to give them greater flexibility. If people have concerns about the impact of an extended event on a local area, the police or the environmental health authority may make relevant representations to the licensing authority to stop them. That will ensure that events that might have an adverse impact on the licensing objectives, whether for one day or for seven, are prevented from going ahead.

The measure aims to be practical and to reflect the community spirit of those events that have to take an artificial break, but we recognise the need for safeguards and protections. I have explained why those changes are taking place and have set out those protections, so I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge will seek leave to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr Benton. I am not clear about the procedure. My name is on the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Cambridge. If he chooses not to press it to a Division, is there an opportunity for a Division still to go ahead?

Photo of Joe Benton Joe Benton Labour, Bootle

If the hon. Gentleman were to seek the leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment, I would put the Question to the Committee. I think the proper form would be to object to it, and I would then put the Question that the amendment be made, when there would be an opportunity to divide.

Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge

I thank the Minister for his comments, which have provided me with some reassurance about the reasons for the provision and the extra safeguards. I have some sympathy with the Opposition’s desire to try to win a vote, as they seem to be rather unfortunate in the outcome of the votes that have taken place in Committee. However, given the Minister’s comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Hon. Members:

No.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 115 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 116 and 117 ordered to stand part of the Bill.