Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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Mr. Blunt: If there is no guillotine approach or way of making local authorities re-examine the orders periodically, we all know what will happen. Council members will not reconsider the orders unless it is brought to their attention, perhaps in a bureaucratic way, that they have to do so at a particular time. If we have a power that can be revoked, but need not be, we know perfectly well that the areas will stay permanently designated.

Mr. Clarke: I hate to remind the hon. Gentleman that democracy is an important part of all this—I am not sure how widely it exists in Surrey. We are giving these powers to the local authority council because it is an elected body—and it may not be elected entirely on a party political basis. That is how local government works. That is the strength of our system: it is not simply a bureaucracy. Local government can, of course, be bureaucratic in many respects, but I have no doubt whatever that councils will take an interest in the powers and debate them fully. Councillors in the Mancroft ward, right in the centre of the city of Norwich, where such powers already exist, actively debate whether the powers are used rightly, and not just every 12 months or five years but on a regular basis.

If we were talking about the national health service or the Benefits Agency, I could better understand the hon. Gentleman's point, because they are more bureaucratic, but local government has a key elected element that makes all the difference.

Amendment No. 28 would provide the local authority with the power to identify an area within the designated public area, in respect of which public drinking powers will not apply. The power as drafted—I have just read out the relevant clause—is sufficient to cover that.

Amendment No. 29 would allow the local authority to specify, in the designation order, that it does not apply at certain times. I accept that the amendment is well motivated and would allow for greater local flexibility, but it creates a potential for confusion about time boundary zones—if we had a 6 pm to 10 pm, or a 6 pm to 2 am bar in a particular area, for example—and could lead to serious difficulties.

Mr. Hawkins: There may be areas in any town or city, where—because of a particular local festival, or on new year's eve—regular public events are held, but one would not want those to be designated for the whole year, or for a period of years. Would the Minister consider that it might be useful to have the flexibility in the Bill to cope with that situation. We both know there are many such local festivals, which may only happen one day a year or—as the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood will appreciate—once upon a Preston guild.

Mr. Clarke: I do not even understand that. I do understand, however, the hon. Gentleman's point about particular days. I think that that is a more powerful point than times. I will consider that point, but again I am wary about it, because in the question of drinking in public, it is important that we have consistency that is understood across the whole range.

I have dealt with the substance of the points of that have been made. The statutory guidance proposed in amendment No. 59 does not add anything. One further point, in response to the my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood, is that we consider the role of the parish councils in giving advice to local authorities in such matters to be important. We want to elevate the role of the parish councils, and to encourage local authorities to take full and proper account of representations from them when taking their decisions on designations order.

I urge the hon. Member for Reigate to withdraw the amendment and support the clause.

Mr. Blunt: I will withdraw amendment No. 127. I will vote in favour of amendment No. 31 if it is pressed to a vote. If not, I certainly want to press amendment No. 128 to a vote. The Minister has not satisfied me that the orders will not simply remain local authorities' statute books indefinitely unless there is some provision to draw local councillors' attention to them.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 128, in page 8, line 17, at end insert—

    `(2A) All orders must be confirmed by that local authority at least every five years or they will be deemed to be spent.'—[Mr. Blunt]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Division No. 11]

Ballard, Jackie
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Hawkins, Mr. Nick
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Lyell, Sir Nicholas

Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Brinton, Mrs. Helen
Clark, Mr. Paul
Clarke, Mr. Charles
Grogan, Mr. John
McCabe, Mr. Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being Five o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to Order [6 February].

Adjourned till Tuesday 27 February at half-past Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Gale, Mr. (Chairman)
Bailey, Mr.
Ballard, Jackie
Blunt, Mr.
Brinton, Mrs.
Clark, Mr. Paul
Clarke, Mr. Charles
Gray, Mr.
Grogan, Mr.
Hawkins, Mr.
Heald, Mr.
Hughes, Mr. Simon
Humble, Mrs.
Lock, Mr.
Lyell, Sir Nicholas
McCabe, Mr.
McDonagh, Siobhain
Smith, Miss Geraldine
Sutcliffe, Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.

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