Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Collins: Since the hon. Gentleman refers to the speech of my noble Friend Viscount Astor, I also invite him to comment on the fact that not one of the riders of the 43 motor bikes had a proper licence. Does that not suggest that there is further reason for the Government to act to restrict those who, sadly, seem determined to act irresponsibly in a beautiful part of our countryside?

Mr. Foster: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If he has studied the Lords debate as assiduously as I have, he will know that the non-licensing of those vehicles was a matter of great concern, not least in respect of how they managed to get there in the first place. At some stage they would have had to travel on roads for which carrying a licence is an absolute requirement. Even if legislation is passed, we hope that, either through the Countryside Agency or in subsequent provisions, enforcement will be tackled as well.

8 Jul 2003 : Column 1113

Several other amendments tabled in another place and accepted by the Government today—some were actually introduced by them—are welcome in bringing greater clarification to the Bill. However, when the Minister delivers his winding-up speech, will he explain more fully the purpose behind proposed new section 6B, on preliminary impairment tests? There has been some speculation in the media that it will tie in not only with drugs and alcohol testing but with the Government's new thinking on the requirements for older people who want to continue to drive motor vehicles. I hope that the Minister will briefly comment on that particular point.

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale referred to the holy grail—a test for drugs abuse equivalent to the breathalyser for alcohol abuse in driving vehicles. I draw his attention—and, more particularly, the Minister's—to the successful use in Sweden and America of the pupilometer, which might well prove to be, if not the holy grail itself, a useful precursor of a better system in due course. Have the Government given much thought to using that device?

Several of the amendments before us are about road safety issues. The whole House will be aware that many anxieties were expressed during the passage of the Bill that it was unduly concerned with the issue of safety on modes of transport other than the road. I am sure that many people are delighted that, as a result of amendments here and in the other place, the issue of road safety began to come to the fore. Some of us were disappointed that the Government were not willing to live up to the commitment that they made in 1996, before they came to power, to lower the drug and alcohol limits. Nevertheless, we have seen some improvements.

Perhaps the Minister will also comment on the Government's intention to introduce a road safety Bill in the near future. Notwithstanding the primacy in the Bill of the need to make some improvements in rail safety, almost all hon. Members would agree that our railways are already very safe indeed. Although since 1997 there have been some 17,000 deaths on the road, there have been fewer than 150 deaths on our railway. It is important to remember the high level of safety that already exists on our railways.

We have some important amendments before us. They amend an already good Bill that has cross-party support, as the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale said. I am sure that tonight it will continue to receive that support for the additional amendments and for the assurance that we have been given on amendment No. 10 from the other place by the Minister tonight.

10 pm

Mr. McNulty: I welcome the tone as well as the substance of the debate. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said that the Bill has had cross-party support throughout, and I hope that it will reach Royal Assent with that consensus intact. I am sorry that I missed the Committee proceedings, because they sound delightful—unlike some of the Committees that I served on at the same time.

I am more than happy to associate myself with the remarks by the hon. Members for Bath and for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) about the

8 Jul 2003 : Column 1114

individuals who played a good game in the other place. They include our own Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Lord Berkeley, Lord Bradshaw of the Liberal Democrats, and Lord Dixon-Smith, Baroness Scott and Viscount Astor for the Conservatives. They all had roles to play in the amendments that we have accepted fully or with modifications.

Some issues remain outstanding, but I hope that they can be dealt with via correspondence and are not deal breakers that will hold up the Bill in the other place. As Hansard records, Lord McIntosh said in the other place that the original amendment No. 10 on national trails would fall foul of the European convention on human rights, because it would mean introducing a traffic regulation order without the right to a public inquiry and the chance to lodge objections, but not necessarily for reasons to do with the right of appeal. It is the chance to lodge objections that is missing. The Government amendment would allow the normal TRO process to be followed, so that it would comply with—I should not say "get round"—the ECHR, by allowing a public inquiry if necessary. I am assured that the Government amendment would also allow a permanent traffic regulation order, because that is contained in the body of prior legislation—whereas much of the amendment passed in the other place refers to, but does not make itself part of, previous legislation. The permanent route is something that the Secretary of State can decide.

Tony Baldry (Banbury): I do not think that a single person in Oxfordshire believes that the issue of the Ridgeway will be resolved by voluntary agreement. The real concern is that a year will pass, nothing will happen and the matter will be kicked into touch. May I urge the Minister to start thinking about drafting legislation to address the issue, because that would concentrate people's minds. People in Oxfordshire feel very strongly about the issue.

Mr. McNulty: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Spurred on by the amendment in the other place, we now have the legislative hook to ensure that if those who can do something about the issue—the Countryside Agency and the local authorities—do not do so in the next 12 months, we can and shall. I urge the hon. Gentleman to read the report of the assurance that I gave earlier very carefully. Nowhere does kicking into touch figure in this process. I accept the real concerns expressed in the other place.

I do not want to go over old ground in terms of areas that are outwith the amendments before us. I am sure that you would admonish me if I chose to do so, Madam Deputy Speaker. I can reassure the hon. Member for Bath that section 6B is not against older people. Its purpose is to detect the more instantaneous impairment brought about by drink and drug abuse, rather than ailments brought on by disability or age.

I am told by the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) that I should not go down the swabs route, even though that subject was terribly

8 Jul 2003 : Column 1115

interesting in Committee and is sure to run and run. Much of the technology involved, including the pupilometer that was mentioned earlier, is in its early stages and will have to be looked at in the context of making the drug impairment measures work properly.

I have greatly appreciated the nature and tenor of the debate. This was a good Bill to begin with, and—as both the hon. Gentlemen have said—given our minor adjustments and the assurances made on amendment No. 10, it will leave here an even better Bill. I commend it to their lordships and hope that they will dispatch it on Thursday.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 9 agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 10 disagreed to.

Government amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 10 agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 11 and 12 agreed to.

8 Jul 2003 : Column 1116

Licensing Bill [Lords]

Lords message considered.

Schedule 1

Provision of Regulated Entertainment

Lords amendment: No. 62C.

10.7 pm

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 62D to 62J and Lords amendment 62L in lieu of the words left out of the Bill by amendment No. 62.

Mr. Caborn: I know that many Opposition Members will be extremely relieved that the fat lady is here to sing to us tonight. One thing that is certain is that she does not need a licence to sing in a royal palace. Thank goodness, too, that we can put paid to some of the daft ideas that have been buzzing round. It was suggested on the Floor of the House and in Committee that we would put postmen in jail if they whistled on their morning rounds, or that revellers would be thrown into the cells for singing "Happy Birthday" in a restaurant. Those are some of the daft stories that have been going round during the passage of the Bill.

I want to take the opportunity to clear up a fundamental misunderstanding about the Bill. Indeed, far from spelling the end of live entertainment, as many have claimed during its passage, it will make it cheaper and easier to get a licence when one is needed, so it should be a great support for live music.

The Bill will reduce six licensing regimes to one, to achieve four objectives—the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and, most importantly, the protection of children from harm. I believe that it is a sound piece of legislation, which all parts of the House have been praying for, not just because it modernises licensing but because it removes a considerable amount of red tape. The days of small venues being charged thousands of pounds in some areas for a licence to stage a performance by three Somerset folk singers will soon be over. I hope therefore that 8 July 2003 will be remembered as the day on which live music was given the shot in the arm that it badly needs.

Turning to the amendments, we are introducing a further package of measures in addition to the concession we made in the Chamber on 24 June to lighten the load on venue operators and organisers and to provide the opportunity to open up the market to a wide range of performance. That package consists of four elements. First, some amendments provide a significant concession on unamplified music, which I will explain in more detail later. Secondly, the Government have given a firm undertaking to review the existing descriptions of entertainment in the Bill six to 12 months after the end of the transition period. If it proves that the Bill has had an unintended, disproportionate and negative effect on the provision of live music, we will use the powers already in the Bill to

8 Jul 2003 : Column 1117

modify the position through secondary legislation. Thirdly, we have provided an exemption for morris dancing and dancing of a similar nature from the Bill's requirements on the provision of regulated entertainment.

Next Section

IndexHome Page