Kevan Jones: North Durham.
Kevan Jones: I am intrigued by the hon. Gentleman's line of argument, and I wonder whether he could give an example. When I, like many hon. Members, served in local government we were quietly governed by the standing orders and offers of advice from the chief legal officer, which would not have allowed us to simply bang such a thing on the agenda at the last minute without notice.
Kevan Jones: I am not sure in what strange councils Conservative members have been operating. Perhaps they could give an example of a planning application, or any controversial decision, being dealt with under delegated powers. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to give an example of the things he mentions actually being done.
Kevan Jones: Why?
Kevan Jones: But will not some cases be delegated rather than being subject to full hearings of the licensing authority?
Kevan Jones: Can the hon. Gentleman explain why it would not be appropriate for councillors to sit on a planning committee as well as a licensing committee?
Kevan Jones: Unfortunately, the Bill should be renamed the Westminster city council Bill because everything seems to be being skewed towards Westminster. Is it not a fact that if there were more councillors, more officials would be needed to administer the paper work and to prepare for the committees? As my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) said, increasing the number of councillors is...
Kevan Jones: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman is adopting new Labour tactics. When he conducted his survey, did he point out to the residents in his constituency that under this Bill they will have a direct say in the granting of licences for the first time? That fact may have been withheld from them until now.
Kevan Jones: Is not the problem the fact that the clause defines culture? Some people think that morris dancing and high art are culture, while others consider that Newcastle brown and football are part of the culture in the north-east.
Kevan Jones: Is it not the case at present that local authorities can give themselves planning permission on land that they own?
Kevan Jones: It is good for the ratepayers.
Kevan Jones: I wish to speak against the amendment. I support the transfer of responsibility for the licensing of premises to local authorities. Local authorities already administer public entertainment licences, and do so well in my experience. They also deal with issues such as taxi licences, door registration schemes—in certain parts of the country—and planning applications. They have a...
Kevan Jones: I appreciate that, and that is why the fees will need to reflect the type of enforcement that there will be. However, at the moment, we have a system whereby a local authority can set a fee for a public entertainment licence which bears no resemblance whatsoever to its enforcement in practice. It is important that, if publicans and other people apply for a public entertainment licence, they...
Kevan Jones: Authorities cannot do that, and I do not believe that that is what the Bill is expecting them to do. At the moment one has to re-apply every year, which is burdensome for the licensees. It serves no useful purpose. If a public house, restaurant or a nightclub is run professionally and is well maintained with no disorder, why do those involved have to pay a fee each year? The provision will...
Kevan Jones: I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is not a member of Westminster City council, but is the money raised from current public entertainment licences ring-fenced for enforcement in Westminster?
Kevan Jones: Clearly it depends on the type of licence. If they are on-licences, that might be the case, but if the pubs have public entertainment licences, as they are in the constituency of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster and given the rates that Westminster council charges, it would be more than £200,000.
Kevan Jones: I have.
Kevan Jones: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that as a result of this legislation, certainly in Westminster because of the stealth tax imposed by the Conservative council, people who have public entertainment licences will make substantial savings?
Kevan Jones: Would there not be a saving to individual premises? At the moment, those without a public entertainment licence have to apply for a separate licence and expense would be involved in that. Fees also vary from council to council. In the constituency of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster, some licences cost £20,000 a year.
Kevan Jones: The students union in Durham is in the centre of the city and is an integral part of the university and so is the students union at Newcastle university. Noise and public safety issues will clearly arise, but the students union in Durham would have something to say if its activities could not be licensed. Therefore I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. A public nuisance could be created in...