Clause 41 - Late night refreshment

Part of Deregulation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 13th March 2014.

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Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 3:45 pm, 13th March 2014

No, my hon. Friend is right, although customers of Fat Tom’s Kebab Ambulance believed that some of his wares were only a good vet away from being back on their feet. However, we will not dwell on that; we will move on.

This is a sensible new piece of deregulation. One reason why we support the clause is that it does not compel councils to use the power. Councils are able to choose to apply the power only to limited areas where they think it will work best.

We must recognise that late night refreshment sellers play an important part in the night-time economy, but there can be significant antisocial behaviour and disorder  in those places, such as can be seen in “Police, Camera, Action!”-type programmes, which seem to be on Pick TV at 11 pm every night. If people get home on a Monday night, for example, they can watch people fighting in the kebab shop. Such places can be a source of antisocial behaviour, so it is important that local authorities have that freedom. It fits in entirely with Labour’s principle of devolving powers to local government and communities. Councils, which know their areas best, will be able to decide where the power will be useful, where it will be genuinely deregulatory and, indeed, where it will be problematic.

Late night refreshment has always been a licensable activity, because of its potential link with alcohol-related crime and disorder. Indeed, there is a responsibility on the providers of late night refreshment to do everything they can to protect their staff and make sure that theirs is a safe environment. Where there is a clear link with or a history of antisocial behaviour, there should still be licensing.

The definition of late night refreshment is fairly broad. It covers everything from a cup of tea in a garage to fast food late at night. We think that the clause strikes the right balance, and we look forward to hearing whether the Minister sees it as a first step or the full extent of deregulation. In that context, we offer our support.