Section 21 — Objections and representations

Licensing (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 16th November 2005.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 2:30 pm, 16th November 2005

Group 4 is on persons entitled to object to premises licence applications. Amendment 58, in the name of Bruce Crawford, is grouped with amendment 59.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

The Scottish Executive's policy memorandum states that one of the bill's aims is to establish a more inclusive system for all those who have an interest. The Scottish National Party supports that aim, as do amendments 58 and 59. However, the bill seems to open the door to all and sundry and does not meet the Executive's stated aim of a more inclusive system for those who have an interest.

When the Local Government and Transport Committee took oral evidence on the matter, only one source supported the Executive's position. However, we received evidence from seven sources that thought that the bill had been drawn too widely. I signed up to the committee's report but, having considered the evidence more closely, I think that that was the wrong thing to do in that respect.

The views contrary to the Executive's came from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the licensing boards of West Lothian Council and Glasgow City Council, the Law Society of Scotland, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Beer and Pub Association. A contrary view was also expressed by Sheriff Principal Nicholson, who said:

"I have to say that I have considerable reservations about the wisdom of opening the door to potential objectors to such an extent. Suppose, for example, that there were to be an application for a premises licence in, say, Edinburgh or Glasgow. Suppose then that there is a Free Church minister in Stornoway who is a fervent and committed prohibitionist in relation to the sale and consumption of alcohol, and he decides to object to the application in question. Because of his genuinely held views it cannot really be said that his objection is frivolous or vexatious. But, is it really sensible that he should be heard in opposition to an application for a grant of a licence in Glasgow or Edinburgh?"

I am sure that other members were copied into correspondence from Gordon Millar, who was a member of the Nicholson committee. He, too, said that he did not support the Executive on the widely drawn nature of the bill.

I hope that, in drawing up my amendments, I have dealt successfully with the concerns that were raised at stage 2 by some of my colleagues on the Local Government and Transport Committee. I submit that amendments 58 and 59 fit the aims that are outlined in the policy memorandum better than the bill does as it stands.

I move amendment 58.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour 2:45 pm, 16th November 2005

Amendments 58 and 59 in the name of Bruce Crawford seek to narrow the definition of those who can object to and make representations on applications for premises licences by reintroducing similar restrictions to those that were imposed under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976. That would be a major step backwards.

Bruce Crawford would leave it to boards to determine which people would be sufficiently affected by a licence application and so entitled to object. However, the requirement to determine that in each case would put considerable resource pressures on boards. Crucially, also, the amendments would introduce considerable uncertainty into the process for the licensed trade and local communities, which could never be completely clear in advance about their right to object.

The Local Government and Transport Committee recognises the benefit of the Executive's approach in its stage 1 report. We do not believe that the administrative inconvenience of handling more objections can be set against the benefits to communities of being able to make their views known. The Executive's proposals will allow any person to object. That is coupled with a power to reject frivolous and vexatious objections—the example that Mr Crawford gave would indeed be a frivolous and vexatious objection. Our proposals will implement a system in relation to licensing that has been running successfully for more than 20 years under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

Our proposals put our communities first; they require systems that encourage people to put their views forward on issues that are of great concern to them. I ask Bruce Crawford also to put communities in Scotland first and to withdraw amendment 58.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Mr Davidson, you were very late in pressing your button. Ordinarily, members are expected to press their buttons before the minister responds to the debate. However, I will allow you a brief comment.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

Thank you. I support Bruce Crawford's amendments, because they would apply to those communities "that may be affected"; they would not limit decisions to boards. The minister is leaving the matter open to interpretation in pursuing his line. What does he mean by "frivolous", for example? We need clarity in our laws and Mr Crawford's amendments provide for clear and understandable definitions.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I would like to respond to the minister's accusation that I want to put additional work on the system. Gordon Millar—a former member of the Nicholson committee—says:

"However, I believe that the current wording is simply too broad and will add unnecessary expense and bureaucracy to the licensing system for no appreciable benefit. This has been recognised by the Executive itself which gives Boards the powers to rule out objections they feel are 'frivolous or vexatious'. I believe the Executive's position in allowing a large number of objections which it knows will be ruled incompetent is tantamount to fastening the stable door after it has allowed the horse to bolt".

I could not have put it better myself. I will press the amendment.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 58 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

There will be a division. As members are aware, in accordance with standing orders, we must now have a five-minute suspension while the division bell is rung.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

Division number 1

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Henry, Hugh, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinburne, John, Turner, Dr Jean, Wallace, Mr Jim, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 45, Against 73, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 58 disagreed to.

Amendment 59 not moved.