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Section 22 — Determination of premises licence application

Licensing (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:54 pm on 16th November 2005.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 2:54 pm, 16th November 2005

Group 5 is on off-sales hours and other grounds for refusal of licence. Amendment 12, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 12A, 17, 17A, 24, 24A, 63, 64, 64A, 83 and 67. Amendment 64A is a manuscript amendment and is being accepted under rule 9.10.6, as was established earlier. The text is in the second supplement to the marshalled list of amendments.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

Bristow Muldoon's amendments 12A, 17A, 24A, 64, 66 and 67 will introduce a new package in relation to licence applications for off-sales. They will, in effect, prevent boards from granting premises licences that would allow off-sales between 10 pm and 3 am. Boards will also be required to take into account the effect that the off-sales hours that are proposed in the application might have on antisocial behaviour. Frank McAveety's amendment 64A would amend the proposals by further restricting off-sales hours by preventing off-sales premises from opening between 10 pm and 10 am.

Bruce Crawford's amendment 63 seeks to amend section 60A of the bill, which was inserted at stage 2 and reintroduces statutorily permitted opening hours for off-sales of 8 am until 11 pm. The amendment would require off-sales to close at 10 pm. Andrew Arbuckle seeks to rely on the provisions of the bill as it was introduced.

Opening hours in Scotland must be decided in the best interests of our communities. There has to be a balance between a strong national framework and local decisions that can reflect the realities on the ground. The bill will create a new framework and a new kind of licensing board that will have to work to a comprehensive set of obligations. The issue is complex, so the bill creates new protections and will involve the public far more comprehensively than has been the case at any time in the past.

There will be a statutory duty on boards to assess every application against the five tests of the national licensing objectives. It is worth hearing what those five tests are. An application will be judged against its capacity to create crime and disorder; against its capacity in relation to public safety; against its capacity in relation to public nuisance; against how it might affect, protect or improve public health; and against how it would protect children from harm. A further test will be the statutory duty on boards to consider the effects of off-sales hours on antisocial behaviour. There will be an obligation on the police to produce a report on their view of how any application would impact on antisocial behaviour. In addition, there will for the first time be a power that licensing boards have asked for for many years: they will have the capacity to refuse an off-sales licence on the grounds of over-provision or of premises simply not being suitable.

A crucial part of the bill is that communities will have a clear say, which they never had before. Anyone will be able to object to a licence application and if a licence is granted and problems arise, they will be able to seek a licence review in short order.

For the first time, local licensing forums will be involved in drawing up the local licensing standards, which will be the guiding principles against which any local board will have to consider an application.

As part of the implementation of the bill, the Executive will produce regulations that will require boards to complete a standard form that will document their findings against each of the five tests. When they have documented their findings, they will be required to publish them, and the general public throughout Scotland will be able immediately to judge the criteria and the way in which the board assessed the criteria before it passed any application. Therefore, communities will know the rationale behind decisions and will immediately be able to comment on them.

The bill contains numerous comprehensive safeguards, procedures and penalties that will deal with the problems that are caused by alcohol. Dealing with those problems has always been at the heart of our policy and it remains so to this day. Comments about large numbers of off-sales shops opening at 3am and the resultant increased disorder in the streets are misleading and distorting. People who make such comments have not thought about the package of reforms in its totality, but for objective consideration of the bill they must do so—members must consider the entire package of reforms before they make a decision on any concerns that they have.

I said earlier and I say again that I am a Lanarkshire member and am proud to represent the Executive. I would not stand here—indeed, the Executive would not allow me to do so—advocating proposals that would cause the deterioration of situations in communities in which people are challenged by the behaviour that results from alcohol consumption. The bill will offer new protections and communities will be better for it.

That said, it is of course Parliament's right to consider the position and to decide whether additional safeguards are required. Members have a number of options; for example, they could disagree to all the amendments and leave the bill as it stands, including Bruce Crawford's amendments that were passed at stage 2. As I said, statutorily permitted opening hours between 8 am and 11 pm for off-sales would therefore be reintroduced.

Alternatively, members could choose Bristow Muldoon's proposal, which would require off-sales to close between 10 pm and 3 am. They could support what he has proposed with the additional safeguard that Frank McAveety has proposed, which would require closure between 10 pm and 10 am. That would be a move from the current position and would surprise the licensed trade. However, I hope that the trade would understand the concerns that members have expressed about the difficulties that communities face as a result of the behaviour that is exhibited when people consume excess alcohol.

I want to make it absolutely clear that if members wish to introduce closure from 10 pm to 10 am—which Frank McAveety has proposed—they must vote for Bristow Muldoon's amendment 64 and for Frank McAveety's amendment 64A. As I said, Andrew Arbuckle has also lodged an amendment, which relies on the existing provisions of the bill to provide the protections that we seek.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

No, I will not. I am about to wind up.

We believe that the strength of the bill—taken in its totality, with all the protections that I have outlined—offers new and comprehensive protections to communities, which will address situations that many communities are simply sick of. The bill will create a new type of licensing board and it will mean that people in Scotland will have a greater say than ever in licence applications.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I have already said that I will not.

Executive amendments 12, 17 and 24 are technical amendments that will clarify the relationships between different provisions in the bill that relate to the grounds for refusal of an application by the licensing board.

I move amendment 12.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

When I lodged amendment 12A, I did not expect it to attract the attention that it has generated. [ Laughter. ]

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

Some parliamentarians must take a look at how they behave. The queue of Scottish National Party members who stood up to disrupt the start of the meeting will bring the Parliament into disrepute. Members who continually seek to disrupt the Parliament should realise that the news clippings will show only one member, not five.

First, I want to deal with amendments 12A, 17A and 24A, which are technical amendments that will merely link section 60A to other aspects of the bill. They are consequential to the main amendment, which is amendment 64.

Amendment 64 has been subject to mischievous misrepresentation by Mr Crawford and some of the media, as Mr McCabe said. If amendment 64 were agreed to without being amended by Frank McAveety's amendment 64A, there is no question but that few—if any—licensed premises would open for off-sales purposes at 3 o'clock in the morning. The purpose of amendment 64 is to enable some flexibility for licensing boards to allow some shops that already open at 6 o'clock in the morning to sell alcohol products to shift workers at the same time as they buy the rest of their messages. That is the perfectly reasonable suggestion that has been put forward.

The question of whether the time should have been 3 o'clock or some other time is a matter for debate; however, the vast majority of on-licence premises would be closed at the time when amendment 64 would allow on-sales to start again. Therefore, even if an application were granted, its impact on antisocial behaviour would be minimal. In fact, amendment 64 places a requirement on any licensing board to take full cognisance of the potential impact on antisocial behaviour before it grants such a licence. If there is the prospect of antisocial behaviour, the licence should be declined.

It is clear that colleagues in different parties have concerns about the degree of flexibility that amendment 64 would allow. Frank McAveety's amendment 64A tinkers slightly with amendment 64: it is an amendment that I will support. I hope that members will vote first for amendment 64A and secondly for amendment 64, as amended.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

A serious point of order, Mr Crawford.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Bristow Muldoon rightly mentions the voting process, to which we will come shortly. Can you confirm for us exactly what the voting procedure will be with regard to the amendments?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Amendment 64 will be moved, then amendment 64A will be moved and voted on. We will then vote on amendment 64.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

That was a perfectly fair question for Mr Crawford to ask, but he timed it deliberately to interrupt me. He could quite easily have asked that question at the end of the debate.

In the passage of the bill, the members who have strengthened the bill and who have taken cognisance of what people are saying to us about the consequences of antisocial behaviour on our communities and the link with alcohol have been Labour members. Several members moved amendments at stage 2, including Paul Martin and Michael McMahon, which were opposed or criticised by the SNP. The SNP is merely posturing in order to be seen to have a stance against antisocial behaviour that its actions prove it does not have.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Will Bristow Muldoon tell Parliament about the demand from communities in his constituency for off-sales premises to be opened at 3 o'clock in the morning?

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

Mr Swinney obviously did not listen to the opening part of my speech, when I said that if amendment 64 were agreed to, very few off-licences in Scotland would open at that time of the morning. Mr Swinney should pay attention to the whole of a member's speech before intervening.

I turn, finally, to our colleagues in the coalition: the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats' position of wanting no opening hours for off-licences specified in the bill is perplexing, given that only a couple of days ago I received through the excellent "Gallery News" service a press release by the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman at Westminster, Mark Oaten, which said:

"The tide of public opinion has turned against 24-hour drinking.

Judges, doctors and many senior police have repeatedly warned the Government against this course of action. Even the Home Office have launched an advertising campaign to crack down on drunk and disorderly conduct."

That exposes opportunism on the Liberal Democrats' part. [Interruption.]

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

It is clear that the only party that stands up—[ Interruption. ]

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

The only party that stands up for communities that are under siege from antisocial behaviour is the Labour Party.

I move amendment 12A.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I call Bruce Crawford to speak to amendment 63 and the other amendments in the group and I ask the rest of you to be quiet, please.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

One of my colleagues just said as an aside that entertainment like this cannot be bought. I was thinking more of ferrets and sacks.

Bristow Muldoon's speech was astonishing; I will deal with some of the detail in a minute. When I consider that some of his colleagues on the Local Government and Transport Committee, such as Michael McMahon and Paul Martin, were critical of my attempt to restrict off-licences at stage 2, some of the arguments that Bristow Muldoon makes are astonishingly puerile.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Let me make some room first.

I wish that somebody would tell me the Executive's position, because I have heard no comment about an Executive line.

I congratulate my colleagues on the Local Government and Transport Committee, who supported my successful amendment 5 at stage 2 to prevent off-licence premises from opening between 11 pm and 8 am the following morning. On reflection, I should have taken a more cautious approach and recognised the situation on the ground. That is why I have lodged amendment 63, which would require off-licences to close at 10 pm. I guess that we have some agreement with Bristow Muldoon on that, because our proposed closing times are the same, but we have a long way to go on opening times in the morning. We disagree on the time at which to prevent sales of alcohol from off-licences in the morning and we cannot support Bristow Muldoon's proposed time of 3 am. That would create problems in some of our communities.

It is simply not credible or sustainable for Bristow Muldoon to argue the position that he took at the Local Government and Transport Committee and then to come along today and argue his current position. In taking his current position, he has shattered any coalition of good will towards the bill. Surely he must realise that amendment 64 does not match his rhetoric or the criteria that he set for himself at stage 2. I will remind him what he said:

"It would concern me if people who have already consumed an amount of alcohol were to come out of a nightclub at two or three o'clock in the morning and have the opportunity to purchase more alcohol to consume in the streets. That might put greater pressure on our public services and communities."—[Official Report, Local Government and Transport Committee, 27 September 2005; c 2909.]

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

Has Bruce Crawford reached the end of amendment 64? Subsection (5) says:

"in considering whether the granting of the application would be inconsistent with any of the licensing objectives, the Board must ... consider the effect ... which the off-sales hours proposed ... would have on the occurrence of antisocial behaviour."

If a nightclub were adjacent to off-sales premises, the application would be refused.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Why create the possibility that that situation will arise?

I congratulate Bristow Muldoon on some of his proposed provisions. Some of the stuff on antisocial behaviour orders is quite imaginative; it represents good use of an amendment and it will strengthen the bill. I do not support the opening of off-licences at 3 o'clock in the morning, although I support some of what Bristow Muldoon proposes. That is my view, if it is any consolation to him. I know that his own arguments have returned to undermine fatally his position. It is not credible for the member to support a cogent amendment at stage 2, as he did, and to move a completely contradictory amendment today that flies in the face of his own logic.

My views on the issue have strengthened since stage 2. The evidence that we are gathering from England, which is a bit ahead of us on the issue, shows that 80 to 90 per cent of bars and clubs that already open until 2 am have been granted licences to extend their operating hours for anything between one and five hours. That means that in some places they close their doors at 7 am. According to Tuesday's edition of The Times,

"Nine out of ten late-night clubs and bars will be able to stay open until dawn".

That is the prospect that faces us if Andrew Arbuckle gets his way today. He is, in effect, trying to reintroduce 24-hour opening.

When people spill out on to the streets of our towns and cities, those who want to will be able to purchase more alcohol from an off-licence, to add to their already inebriated state. You can be absolutely certain that, if one supermarket gets its nose in the door, others will seek to do the same and will start to claim that there is unfair competition. I cannot believe that Parliament is allowing supermarkets to decide its position and policy. That cannot be the way forward.

The Scottish Grocers Federation, which represents many small operators of off-licences in Scotland, stated:

"We have argued from day one that we do not want (a) 24 hour licensing, (b) variations in licensing hours from board to board, and (c) a system which could allow out-of-town superstores to open 24 hours but at the same time inhibit local shops from opening beyond the specified time".

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

Does the member support in principle devolution from Parliament to communities and licensing boards? If so, how many boards does he estimate would take the irresponsible approach that he just described? Would any boards operate properly, as we would expect them to do?

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

The whole purpose of Parliament is to set parameters and frameworks for people to implement in our communities. That is the job that we are doing and that the minister is doing. However, the minister has not followed the example of his colleagues at Westminster, who voted against 24-hour opening.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

As the member is aware, there is a presumption against 24-hour opening in the bill, which is completely different from the Westminster legislation. Unlike the Westminster legislation, the bill makes provision for licensing standards officers. It also requires local licensing boards, when they set hours, to take into account antisocial behaviour reports from the police. Is the member saying that he does not trust local elected members to decide what is appropriate for their communities? That is what he is arguing.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I am afraid that many of George Lyon's Labour colleagues in the Scottish Executive are arguing that. I am arguing that we in Parliament should set the framework and conditions that would protect Scotland from antisocial behaviour and the difficult health situations that alcohol brings. That is our job. If the minister gets his way, we will open a Pandora's box and there will be even more problems on Scotland's streets and towns.

Bristow Muldoon is right to say that we must do all that we can to protect Scotland's communities from the antisocial behaviour that results from too much alcohol. I support some of the provisions in amendment 64, but much of it is just additional warm words. As the minister said, the licensing principles already establish much of what is contained in the amendment.

We do not need to look far to find the real problem that is associated with alcohol in Scotland. This week the statistics for alcohol-related conditions and discharges from Parliament were published. [Laughter.] I meant to say discharges from hospitals—although we may need a few glasses once the debate is finished. In 1997-98, there were 36,221 discharges, but in 2004-05, there were 51,000. There has been an increase in alcohol-related discharges of 15,000—an uplift of 41 per cent. That is the background to the debate.

My main concern about today's debate is that Parliament is in danger of sending out mixed messages. The Executive says, "We've been consistent all along, unlike SNP members." On the one hand, the Executive and Parliament say, "We've got to get tough on crime and deal with the booze culture", but on the other, the Executive proposes 24-hour opening.

As far as the shenanigans of earlier today are concerned, I cannot understand why the Executive has allowed itself to get into such a situation at this late juncture—it is chaos. To people outside, it must look like panic and that can only be embarrassing for the Executive. Unfortunately, it is also embarrassing for Parliament, which the Executive has brought into disrepute because of how it has handled proceedings this afternoon. It has been a boorach. Parliament is built on a former brewery site and there is an expression about organising a proverbial something or other in a brewery; the Executive has not managed to do that on this occasion and should hang its head in shame.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

I am reminded of a line from "Macbeth":

"it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing."

I thank Bruce Crawford who reached Shakespearian proportions in his contribution this afternoon. However, he is more of a Shakespearian clown than a tragedy.

Those of us who represent parts of Glasgow that are affected by the effects of alcohol do not underestimate the personal tragedies that are caused by alcohol misuse. Many of us, and probably some of us in this chamber, can testify from family circumstances to the impact on families and individuals of misuse of alcohol. One need only look to my constituency and the statistics that relate to levels of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome in young children as well as the levels of violence connected with consumption of alcohol, primarily by young males.

I recognise the contribution by the Executive and members of the Local Government and Transport Committee to grappling with the difficult issue of how to find a more modern approach to licensing, but at the same time to respond to the difficulties that are thrown up by misunderstandings about the misuse of alcohol, or access to alcohol that could be used inappropriately. Those difficulties are reflected differently depending on whether one is in Glasgow city centre or other parts of Glasgow.

My constituency has such problems in substantial quantities. It also borders Glasgow city centre and is therefore affected by the clubbing culture. People must reflect on that impact. I attend a meeting in my constituency every month at the Alcoholics Anonymous office in the Saltmarket. One need only step out into the Saltmarket to see how misuse of alcohol can affect individuals and communities. The principles in that AA meeting are that people should maintain awareness and consider available information to try to make rational decisions about what they do with their lives. That strikes me as a metaphor for what the Parliament needs to do this afternoon. I am not particularly bothered about who said what in committee meetings. I am not bothered about the nuances of debate that members have grappled with—those are the difficulties that members face at stages 1 and 2. Today we are at stage 3, so central to our consideration must be this question: What is in the interests of the wider public?

Having listened to the debate and seen developments in the past 48 hours, I believe that my amendment 64A will deliver the best of both worlds. The amendment reflects the need for stronger and more modern licensing legislation. More important, we need to ensure that we do not make it easier to create loopholes for people to exploit.

As far as I understand it, the former licensing situation was that no opening hours were defined. Licensing boards had to reflect that in their observations about access to alcohol sales. Bruce Crawford stated in committee and through lodging amendment 63 that specific hours must be determined. However, I am not prepared—neither should any member, irrespective of his or her position—to be held to a Dutch auction when it comes to opening times. An essential part of an auction is the setting of a reserve price—the reserve price here is what is in the best interests of the communities that we serve.

My proposal in amendment 64A will set licensed hours for off-sales not at 11 in the evening until 10 in the evening, as has been suggested, but at 10 in the morning until 10 in the evening. That should strike a reasonable balance with the new guidelines for, and principles of, this reform of licensing.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Frank McAveety said that there should be no Dutch auction on licensing hours. Is he therefore minded to support Andrew Arbuckle's amendment 83, which seeks to leave the matter up to local licensing authorities? This is about devolution and about letting people make local decisions instead of the national Parliament making those decisions for them.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

We can get too caught up in the debate over local and national decision making. My principle objective is to find an approach that best reflects the consensus in the wider public. We, as parliamentarians, are asked to make such decisions; indeed, when the National Union of Miners criticised Nye Bevan for taking a different position from it on an issue, he said, "I owe you my judgment." This afternoon, we are giving the people our judgment on the most appropriate approach to licensing.

It is important to point out that the issue raises difficulties for members of all political parties and none. However, I end by quoting from an Official Report of the Local Government and Transport Committee's stage 2 consideration of the bill. One committee member said:

"Do we allow flexibility to impact on the greater good? The core hours of closing that I suggest are for the greater good, even though people will be denied some flexibility. We must make the decision. We must come down on one side of the fence or the other."—[Official Report, Local Government and Transport Committee, 27 September 2005; c 2911.]

That comment was made not by a Labour committee member, but by Bruce Crawford. He is right to say that

"We must come down on one side of the fence or the other."

I think that amendment 64A will do so appropriately.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I am minded to accept a motion without notice to extend the time limit for the debate on groups 5 to 8.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 9.8.5A, the debate on Groups 5 to 8 be extended by 20 minutes.—[Ms Margaret Curran.]

Motion agreed to.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Given that 12—now 13—members want to speak in the debate on group 5, I cannot call all of them. I shall call one member from each party who has pressed their request-to-speak button. I warn them that they will get a very tight two minutes.

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat

Amendment 83 seeks to delete section 60A. I do not intend to speak to the technical amendments in the group, as I agree with them.

One very strong Liberal principle that runs through the bill is that, on certain matters, the centre does not know best; ministers do not know best; and members of this Parliament do not know best. The Liberal Democrats contend that the important principle behind the bill is that communities and locally elected councillors know best.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour

I have evidence that suggests that some local boards do not want this flexibility or window of opportunity. Does the member acknowledge that some boards want the 10 am to 10 pm period for licensing hours to be mandatory?

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat

I assure Paul Martin that the licensing board members in my area to whom I have spoken are all in favour of the bill and want to take over responsibility for dealing with the issue.

Scotland is a diverse country and a one-size-fits-all policy on licensing is not appropriate. Issues about alcohol sales in Glasgow are not the same as those, for example, in Newburgh in Fife or in Aberdeenshire. I say to Frank McAveety that it is not correct to impose the Glasgow solution on the rest of the country.

The bill follows the principle that local people know best.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

Does the member accept that people the length and breadth of Scotland struggle with alcoholism and alcohol abuse? Giving them access to alcohol during his suggested hours would be simply irresponsible and would increase and exacerbate people's problems.

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat 3:30 pm, 16th November 2005

I refer the member to the minister's comments that strengthening the bill's provisions will prevent certain problems. I think that everyone in the chamber accepts that drink is linked to health problems; however, the bill addresses all those issues.

It is perverse to say that although local people appear to know best for on-sales, they need to be told what to do for off-sales. That is why the Liberal Democrats lodged amendment 83, to return the principle of local decision making for off-sales to the bill. Members have referred to the fact that the safeguard of off-sales licence decisions will still apply to on-sales and that antisocial behaviour must be taken into account by the new licensing boards. Local views must be sought; objections must be heard and considered; local licensing forums will be able to hold boards to account for their decisions; licensing standards officers will have powers to inspect and to enforce licences; and I can confirm to Bruce Crawford that there is a statutory presumption against 24-hour drinking. The minister has, rightly, pointed to all those additional safeguards in the bill.

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat

No.

The only thing that the minister has stopped short of saying is, "I support Andrew Arbuckle's amendment," but perhaps that will come. I hope so.

In considering any off-sales applications, boards must have regard to all the safeguards and must consider whether accepting such an application would be detrimental to the bill's objectives regarding crime and disorder, securing public safety, preventing public nuisance, protecting and improving public health and protecting children from harm.

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat

No.

It is simply scaremongering to suggest that, in the face of those safeguards and conditions, communities, represented by democratically elected members, would take decisions to open off-sales at all hours throughout the country.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Mr Arbuckle, you should sum up now.

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat

I lodged amendment 83, for no restrictive hours to be set by legislation, because that was the original intention of the Scottish Executive.

Photo of Mr Andrew Arbuckle Mr Andrew Arbuckle Liberal Democrat

Indeed, it is the current position of the Scottish Executive. Amendment 83 is in stark contrast to the amendments in the names of Frank McAveety, Bruce Crawford and Bristow Muldoon, whose message to their councillor colleagues is to look them in the eye and tell them when they go back to their constituencies, "We don't trust you." I point out to Bristow Muldoon—

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Mr Arbuckle, you need to finish now.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

No, Mr Arbuckle. I am speaking English. You will finish now.

Of the 13 members who wish to speak, I intend to call five: Bill Aitken, Stewart Maxwell, Tommy Sheridan, Wendy Alexander and Jeremy Purvis. I shall give them one minute each.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Let me make it quite clear what the debate is about. In Scotland, we have serious problems of drink abuse and serious problems of violence and disorder, yet the Executive has introduced a bill to extend the availability of drink. We have witnessed the ludicrous situation of Bristow Muldoon lodging amendment 12A in an effort to extend that availability even further and, at the end of the day, we have found ourselves in an even more shambolic situation, with Frank McAveety having been persuaded to lodge yet another amendment. The only part of the cabaret that is missing is Jack McConnell getting up on his feet to say that all that is to be forgotten about and that we are going back to stage 1.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

You have 50 seconds, Mr Aitken.

Members:

Keep going.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Let me make it quite clear what my party's intentions are. We simply cannot have a situation in which we extend the availability of drink from the pub to the club to the off-sales, leading to disorder in the streets. We will not support the Executive's motion to accept the bill as it stands. We will have to accept Bristow Muldoon's ludicrous amendment, because it will then be tempered by amendment 64A in the name of Frank McAveety, so that is what we shall do.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Thank you, Mr Aitken. I call Mr Maxwell.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Given the level of interest in this group of amendments, surely the Parliament should be entitled to some extra time to have a proper debate on the matter.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We already have an extra 20 minutes.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

I am suggesting that a motion be moved to extend the time further for a proper debate.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I am prepared to move a motion to extend for another 20 minutes.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Members are entitled to move such a motion, but the maximum time that I have to spare is 10 minutes, for the rest of the whole debate, up to the end of group 8.

Be very careful what you are doing, Mr Lyon. If you wish to move to extend by those 10 minutes, you have the right to do that and I shall put the question on that. However, I have already extended the debate by 20 minutes and we are now using part of that time to have this dialogue. I appreciate what you are doing, but the timing is extremely tight. I have done the best that I can.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

I think that the Parliament would like to have some extra time.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 9.8.5A, the debate on Groups 5 to 8 be extended by a further 10 minutes.—[George Lyon.]

Motion agreed to.

Members:

Two.

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

I welcome all the safeguards that the minister mentioned at the beginning. For example, he spoke about how communities' views could be taken into account but, frankly, that is not the point. The fundamental point, in my view, is that there would still be a presumption—not against 24-hour opening, but in favour of extended opening. The best safeguard against that is to specify the hours in the bill. If the establishments in question were not open, there would be no problem and, if there were no problem, there would be no need to create ways in which to police it. It seems nonsensical to create a problem and then to create rules about how to police it.

Since 1980, there has been a 25 per cent increase in the number of off-sales licences in this country. Is it true that the people of East Renfrewshire are happy that in the past eight years there has been a 28 per cent increase in the number of off-sales in their area? Perhaps Andrew Arbuckle can answer that. In Inverclyde, there has been a 22 per cent increase and, in Renfrewshire, the figure has increased by 12.5 per cent.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

You should be winding up.

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

The people do not want those off-sales. Even though they fight them all the time, local licensing boards are allowing them; they are allowing more drink to be available. Frankly, Andrew Arbuckle's idea of 24-hour extended opening is nonsense.

I say to Bristow Muldoon that allowing alcohol to be sold at 3 o'clock in the morning is ludicrous. That is the proposal that is made in amendment 64 and it is complete and utter nonsense. Does Bristow Muldoon want the Asda in his community to be able to sell alcohol from 3 am? If he does, he should stand up and tell—

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

The only problem that I have with Frank McAveety's amendment 64A is that it was lodged so late that we did not have a proper opportunity to consider it. I will support amendment 64A because I think that it is the proper way to go. My only problem is that subsection (4) of the section that amendment 64 seeks to insert means that Scottish ministers would have the power to amend those times at a later date. I do not support the times being amended in regulations at some later date.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

This is a mess, which the Labour Party has created. It would be helpful if Paul Martin and Michael McMahon were to admit—because it seems that Bristow Muldoon is getting pushed into the breach—that they were wrong to oppose Bruce Crawford's amendment at stage 2.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour

Will Tommy Sheridan confirm that the hours that he proposed for off-sales—a closing time of 11 pm and an opening time of 8 am—were the hours that Bruce Crawford proposed?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

If Paul Martin has lost his memory, that is fine, but Bruce Crawford will confirm that I suggested to him that he should propose a 9 pm closing time. However, given that the amendment that Bruce Crawford had lodged was better than the Executive's open-ended proposal, I supported his amendment.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I will now support the proposal for a 10 pm closing time, because it is better than the original proposal. I will support Frank McAveety's amendment for a 10 am opening time, because I think that that is better than an 8 am opening time.

Paul Martin and Michael McMahon talked a good game about sticking up for communities on the availability of alcohol and off-licence opening hours, but when it came to the committee's consideration of the bill, they voted with the Executive and against the communities. That is the reality of the situation. Now we are in a mess because Bristow Muldoon has obviously been leaned on to back the Executive. If Paul Martin and Michael McMahon had been consistent from the start, we would have been able to provide communities with some safeguards as far as the consumption of alcohol was concerned. That is why I hope that, at the end of the day, regardless of the route that we have to follow, we end up with a 10 pm closing time and a 10 am opening time. That would be the best defence for our communities.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

I support Frank McAveety's amendment 64A.

I doubt that any one of my 50,000 constituents in Paisley will care about the media feeding frenzy tomorrow or the media's momentary spasm of excitement. They will care about what the Parliament has done. The truth is that the Executive has unquestionably taken a lead on antisocial behaviour.

The first issue that was raised with the Executive was that underaged youngsters are being sold drink; that issue has been dealt with. The next issue was the problem of oversupply; that issue has also been dealt with. The amendments in group 5 tackle the third issue, which is the potential availability of alcohol at all hours.

Tommy Sheridan is one of those fashionable people who say that the Scottish Parliament is overwhipped, too partisan and without any independent thinking. I say to him that today's debate demonstrates that the Scottish Parliament listens to its communities. We also have an Executive that listens to its members—they are a Parliament and an Executive of which the nation can be proud. I say to Opposition members, whether they are the bluest Tory or the deepest Green, that the people of Scotland are asking them to examine the issues in conscience and without regard to partisanship. Opposition members diminish themselves when they play politics.

Tommy Sheridan should not be puzzled by Labour's decision today. He should know that Keir Hardie stood in North Lanarkshire on a platform that promised three things. He said that we should bring in home rule—we have done that—and proportional representation, which is being brought about. The third part of his platform was temperance and therein lies the issue. The responsible licensed trade in Scotland will have no difficulty with the amendments in group 5; only the irresponsible licensed trade will face difficulty.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

We have had Nye Bevan and now Keir Hardie has been mentioned. Nye Bevan may well have said that he owed people his judgment. I say to the communities that I represent that they will not only have my view, but that I will fight in this place for them to have power.

Members have misrepresented my Liberal Democrat colleagues in England. They are campaigning for the bill at Westminster to be more like the bill in Scotland. Why is the bill that the Executive introduced, on which we have been working for three years, so good? Because it responds to the concerns of local communities about the weaknesses of the present licensing boards. The bill strengthens not only the boards, but the voice of the communities that are represented on them. It strengthens communities' ability to police the decisions of the licensing boards.

I do not support the attempt to reduce the discretion of licensing boards. Does Bruce Crawford believe in local government—in devolution from this place to local communities? He does not. When I asked him whether he believes that any boards will be responsible, his reply showed that he believes that none of them will be responsible. We believe that they will be.

I ask all members of the Executive—ministers and back benchers—to support the Executive position. That position has been consistent, not only during the passage of the bill but over the past three years. The bill will be a good act, but only if we respect local communities, their elected representatives, their voice and their power.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I will assist you in that regard, Presiding Officer.

Many members have expressed sincerely held views. Not for the first time, Mr Aitken enjoyed distorting the position but that has come to be expected. I have explained the bill's provisions, what protections it offers to our local communities and the way in which we are creating new licensing boards that will have far more substantial powers.

The provisions offer substantial protection to our communities. However, I accept that Parliament may wish to adopt another route. The debate has reflected very real concerns, which, in my view, were articulated in a way that reflects well on the chamber. It is for the Parliament to consider the various options that have been placed before it; members will vote accordingly when the time comes.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

Much of the debate has misrepresented the bill. It is a good bill and many of its measures will achieve the aims that are set out in the explanatory notes to the bill.

The Local Government and Transport Committee took cognisance of the degree of liberalisation that was proposed for the off-trade and agreed that the measure did not sit well with the concerns of the communities that we represent. As a result, Bruce Crawford lodged his amendment 186. All committee members should note that the amendment in my name, with its proposal for a maximum period of 19 hours, is closer to the committee's unanimously agreed recommendation for a maximum period of 18 hours. The members who are criticising my position endorsed it at an earlier stage.

However, at this stage, Mr McAveety's amendment 64A makes perfect sense. I will press amendment 12A, but I do so on the basis that I will also support Mr McAveety's amendment 64A.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 3:45 pm, 16th November 2005

The question is, that amendment 12A be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 2

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

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 106, Against 12, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 12A agreed to.

Amendment 12, as amended, agreed to.