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Deregulation Bill

[1st Allocated Day]

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 5

Sale of alcohol: community events etc and ancillary business sales

‘(1) In section 2 of the Licensing Act 2003 (authorisation for licensable activities etc), after subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) The licensable activity of selling alcohol by retail may be carried on if each sale is a permitted sale by virtue of Part 5A.”

(2) After Part 5 of that Act, insert the Part set out in Schedule (Part to be inserted as Part 5A of the Licensing Act 2003) to this Act.

(3) In section 136 of that Act (unauthorised licensable activities), at the end of subsection (5) insert—

“In addition, for the purposes of this Part the licensable activity of selling alcohol by retail is under and in accordance with an authorisation if each sale is a permitted sale by virtue of Part 5A.”

(4) In section 140 of that Act (allowing disorderly conduct on licensed premises etc)—

(a) omit the “and” before subsection (2)(d);

(b) after that paragraph insert “, and

(e) in the case of premises specified in a Part 5A notice, to the person who gave the notice.”

(5) In section 141 of that Act (sale of alcohol to a person who is drunk)—

(a) omit the “and” before subsection (2)(d);

(b) after that paragraph insert “, and

(e) in the case of premises specified in a Part 5A notice, to the person who gave the notice.”;

(c) in subsection (3), after “This section” insert “(except subsection (2)(e))”.

(6) In section 143 of that Act (failure to leave licensed premises etc)—

(a) omit the “and” before subsection (2)(d);

(b) after that paragraph insert “, and

(e) in the case of premises specified in a Part 5A notice, to the person who gave the notice.”

(7) In section 144 of that Act (keeping of smuggled goods)—

(a) omit the “and” before subsection (2)(d);

(b) after that paragraph insert “, and

(e) in the case of premises specified in a Part 5A notice, to the person who gave the notice.”

(8) In section 147A of that Act (persistently selling alcohol to children)—

(a) in subsection (1)(b), for the words from “either” to “Part 5” substitute “licensed premises, premises authorised to be used for a permitted temporary activity by virtue of Part 5 or premises specified in a Part 5A notice”;

(b) in subsection (4), after paragraph (b) insert “or

(c) the person or one of the persons who gave a Part 5A notice in respect of the premises.”

(9) In section 153 of that Act (prohibition of unsupervised sales by children)—

(a) omit the “and” before subsection (4)(c);

(b) after that paragraph insert “, and

(d) in relation to a sale by retail that is a permitted sale by virtue of Part 5A—

(i) the person who gave the Part 5A notice, or

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(ii) any individual aged 18 or over who is authorised for the purposes of this section by that person.”

(10) In section 159 of that Act (interpretation of Part 7), at the end of the definition of “relevant premises” insert “, or

(a) except in sections 145 and 152, premises that (by reason of being specified in a Part 5A notice) are premises on which a sale by retail of alcohol is capable of being a permitted sale by virtue of Part 5A;”.

(11) In section 194 of that Act (index of defined expressions) insert the following entries at the appropriate places—

“Part 5A notice

section 110A(2)”

“relevant licensing authority, in Part 5A

section 110N”

“relevant person, in Part 5A

section 110D(11)”.

(12) In section 197 of that Act (regulations and orders)—

(a) in subsection (3) (which lists exceptions to the use of the negative procedure), after paragraph (c) insert—

“(cza) regulations under section 110B(2), (3) or (7) or 110C(2), (3), (5) or (6) (regulations relating to sales of alcohol permitted by virtue of Part 5A),”;

(b) in subsection (4) (which specifies when the affirmative procedure is required)—

(i) after “or (g)” insert “or regulations within subsection (3)(cza)”;

(ii) after “the order” insert “or regulations”.’. —(Norman Baker.)

This amendment, together with amendment NS1, inserts new Part 5A into the Licensing Act 2003 (with consequential provision to other Parts of that Act) to introduce a new procedure for authorising the sale of alcohol where the sale is ancillary to a community event or to the provision of other goods or services by a business.

Brought up, and read the First time.

1.38 pm

The Minister for Crime Prevention (Norman Baker): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government new schedule 1—Part to be inserted as Part 5A of the Licensing Act 2003.

Norman Baker: The effect of the new clause is to create a new light-touch form of authorisation for community groups or certain businesses, such as bed-and-breakfast accommodation providers, to sell small amounts of alcohol under the Licensing Act 2003—the new part 5A notice.

It may be helpful to the House if I first give some background and explain the problem that we are trying to solve with the new measure. Last year the Government carried out an extensive public consultation on various proposals in its alcohol strategy. This of course included our efforts to tackle alcohol harms. On that front we have already achieved much. For example, we have reformed the Licensing Act 2003 and introduced new tools and powers to make it easier for local police and licensing authorities to close down problem premises and crack down on alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder.

At the same time, the Government’s public consultation last year recognised that sometimes regulation can be excessive, even needless. No one wants to stop a responsible drinker enjoying a drink responsibly. The Government’s approach is all about balance. We want to free up the police and local enforcement agencies to tackle alcohol harms while giving them greater discretion to manage

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low-risk alcohol sales. The Government has also made it clear that it wants to cut red tape and pointless regulations, but I stress that that must not be at the expense of necessary safeguards against alcohol harms. This new measure is about striking that balance.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): The Minister talks about alcohol harms, about which we are all concerned, but would not the new clause increase the consumption of alcohol rather than reduce it?

Norman Baker: I do not think that it will increase the consumption of alcohol; rather it will reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, and do so in a way that means that alcohol is consumed in low quantities and safely, as I will set out.

Our public consultation last year recognised that the existing alcohol licensing regime is a touch bureaucratic in some respects. For some small voluntary groups and bed-and-breakfast establishments, for example, the existing premises licences and temporary event notices regimes are pointlessly costly and burdensome. The restrictions and scrutiny are disproportionate for their low-level, low-risk needs. The first of these are the community groups with local membership, including charities and not-for-profit organisations, which carry out activities in local areas and wish to sell small amounts of alcohol at small-scale events throughout the year. I should confirm that alcohol provided as part of a ticket price or in return for a donation is usually defined in law as a sale.

We are thinking here of local groups, such as the women’s institutes or local residents’ groups, or the church choir that wants to offer a glass of wine to audience members in the interval, and other groups who hold occasional events, for example, lunches and plays at which they wish to provide very small amounts of alcohol to attendees. Such groups often operate from different venues in their local communities. Groups such as the women’s institutes, thriving church organisations and other local charities are not just about “Jam and Jerusalem”; sometimes they might also be about a glass of warm beer or chilled chardonnay. But refreshments aside, their wider activities are part of the fabric and lifeblood of thriving local communities, which I hope all in this House support. No one wants to tie them down with unnecessary bureaucracy if we can help it.

The existing options for an alcohol licence are often unsuitable in such cases. The cost of obtaining a single premises licence is between £100 and £1,900 a year, with an additional associated cost of obtaining a personal licence of approximately £75. Temporary event notices must be given each time and only a limited number—12 at the moment—can be allowed each year for the same premises to ensure appropriate safeguards against crime and disorder and public nuisance because they provide for larger scale, higher risk events.

The other group we looked at was small businesses that want to sell small amounts of alcohol in a similar low-risk environment as part of a wider service. We specifically have in mind providers of bed and breakfast or other similar overnight accommodation who may wish to offer a glass of wine or a beer to welcome their guests at the end of a long day’s travel or with an evening meal. Even if not charged for directly, this alcohol is in law a sale. The burden of a premises licence in such cases seems to many, including me, to be excessive.

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We did consider options such as directly exempting such activity from the licensing process and consulted on other ideas such as greater local discretion on temporary event notices. However, the coalition Government is committed to tackling the harms that alcohol can cause, as I mentioned a moment ago, and recognises the need for important safeguards to guard against those harms and the risk of loopholes. We believed that creating a new tailor-made authorisation was the best option.

In the response to the public consultation on alcohol, we announced our intention to create a new authorisation called the community and ancillary sellers notice. This will be a cheaper, simpler and easier alternative to other types of authorisation, such as a premises licence or using multiple temporary event notices. Since that announcement, we have been working with colleagues across Government to develop the proposal. It has been designed to remove unnecessary licensing burdens and costs for community groups, and for some small businesses in the licensing process, so it is right that it should be part of the Deregulation Bill.

1.45 pm

As the Minister with responsibility for the alcohol licensing regime and for measures to enable local areas to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder effectively, I have been keen to ensure that we have in place the necessary safeguards against harm. Deregulation must not be at the expense of undermining public safety or public health. That is why, although the Government looked seriously at whether it could help groups such as hairdressers and florists with this measure, it has decided that it should not, and so will not. Under the new community and ancillary sellers notice, as the schedule sets out, eligible groups or individuals will be able to sell small amounts of alcohol between 7 am and 11 pm in limited, low-risk circumstances during the period of 36 months.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con): I welcome this sensible deregulatory move. The Minister keeps referring to small amounts of alcohol. Will he define what that refers to?

Norman Baker: I am happy to help my hon. Friend. We are today looking at the principle of the establishment of the scheme, and it is perfectly proper that the detail of that should be subject to consultation, with Members of the House, the Local Government Association and others, and we will not take a firm view on that until the consultation has taken place.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): I should be grateful if the Minister updated the House when he gets that. My wife and I have often disagreed on what a small amount of alcohol is. I would be grateful if, on behalf of husbands around the country, I could make her aware of the legal definition.

Norman Baker: I hesitate to intervene in the Perkins household as to what a small amount of alcohol might be. This is a proper matter for consultation. We need to take into account, for example, whether any alcohol consumed could in theory lead to disorder. We would not want that to occur under this regime. We also want to ensure that we do not encourage drink-driving, and

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so on. Those are the considerations that we will take into account, but we genuinely want to hear from those who respond to the consultation process what they regard as a small amount. It is the principle that we are concerned with today.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I am terribly enthusiastic about the Minister’s general all-party, cross-party approach to getting rid of unnecessary regulation. I absolutely agree with him, but I have just come from a meeting of crowdfunders, who are really hurt by the fact that a Government who believe in deregulation have just introduced the regulation of crowdfunding through the Financial Conduct Authority, which is doing great harm to a growing industry.

Norman Baker: That is a bit off my beat, if I may say so. Obviously, the Government believes in regulation where it is appropriate, but it also believes in removing regulation where it is not appropriate, and that is a balance that it tries to strike in what it does.

Getting an authorisation under the new community and ancillary sellers notice will be simple and straightforward for eligible users and for the local licensing authorities. Users will fill out a simple form and send it to the council to notify it of their intentions to provide alcohol under the new notice. The fee, which we want to keep as low as possible, will accompany the notice. Under the provisions, business users or ancillary sellers will need to specify a single premises from which they will be making alcohol sales, and community groups will be able to name up to three premises at which they will be holding events under the notice.

Licensing authorities will be able to reject a notice where it is appropriate on grounds of preventing crime and disorder, preventing public nuisance, promoting public safety, or protecting children from harm.

Kelvin Hopkins: I am interested in what the Minister has to say. Did the drinks industry contribute to the consultation, and was it enthusiastic about or resistant to the new clause?

Norman Baker: The drinks industry responded to the alcohol strategy. It would be astonishing if it had not done so. Obviously, its comments were taken into account, but so were the comments of others who were concerned, for example, about alcohol harms. As I mentioned a moment ago, we tried to strike the correct balance, ensuring that we do not encourage alcohol harm, while removing unnecessary bureaucracy where its removal has no adverse impact.

With regard to the notices, it is also worth pointing out that the local police and environmental health authority will also have a say. If they have concerns, they can say so before such a notice is given, and once an authorisation has been agreed, the notice may be revoked by a similar light-touch process.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): How will the law be tightened for holders of licences who sell alcohol to those who are under age, particularly for those who are persistent offenders?

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Norman Baker: Let me be clear that this is not an attempt to change the law relating to under-age alcohol sales. The requirements for alcohol sales that apply at present will apply in future. As I mentioned a moment ago, if we find that local police object and that individuals are taking advantage of the process in order to sell alcohol to those who are not entitled to it, obviously that will lead to the licence being revoked, and possibly to criminal action if the police and Crown Prosecution Service so determine.

Kelvin Hopkins: Was there consultation with representatives of those who work in accident and emergency departments on Fridays and Saturdays and who have to put up with people who are seriously inebriated, and often injured, causing terrible problems for the staff?

Norman Baker: There was certainly an open consultation on the alcohol strategy generally. I am well aware of the link between alcohol and violence, as both matters are within my portfolio at the Home Office, but I must stress that this proposal is about very low levels of alcohol being consumed in controlled events and in certain circumstances involving, for example, church choirs and bed-and-breakfast establishments. That is a far cry from the problems we sometimes see on our streets on a Friday or Saturday night. I want to stress that alcohol harm and disorder would in no way be accelerated by this process; quite the reverse. We are simply taking a non-threatening, problem-free alcohol environment and simplifying the bureaucracy that surrounds it. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s concerns about these matters, but let me assure him that we take alcohol harm very seriously indeed.

Mr Sheerman: On that point—and it is a serious one, as those of us who have campaigned on the wrongful use of alcohol know—there used to be different laws for those who charge for alcohol and those who give it away for free, for example as an act of hospitality in commercial premises. Will that continue, or will it end under this scheme?

Norman Baker: As I mentioned a moment ago, if a bed-and-breakfast establishment offers alcohol to guests when they arrive, that is deemed to be a sale, even if an indirect one, because essentially it is included in the overall price of the overnight accommodation. That is how it is regarded in this legislation.

The provisions allow for other safeguards. Users of the new notice will be responsible persons for the purposes of criminal offences in the Licensing Act 2003, such as the selling of alcohol to children. That relates to the point made by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). As with other authorisations under the 2003 Act, the provisions in the Bill will be underpinned by more detailed regulation, on which the Government will consult.

We also intend such regulations to cover the amount of alcohol that can be sold. That relates to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge). We intend that a limit on the amount of alcohol that can be given to an adult within 24 hours will generally apply, or an average of that amount for adults attending a community event. Precise limits will be subject to consultation. We want the system to operate in a light-touch, practical way. Details, such as the level of the fee, the qualifying

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criteria—the types of community groups and the size of businesses, for example—and what discretion licensing authorities will have, will all be matters for regulation, most of which will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, thereby giving Members full opportunity to take part in discussions and decisions. We are looking forward to working with key partners on the detail of the measure and are consulting publicly on this.

This is a radical new licensing authorisation that will help to achieve the Government’s aims of helping community groups and particular small businesses while at the same time maintaining important public health and public safety safeguards. I commend it to the House.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): The Minister was not with us in Committee and so might not be aware that we had many discussions on how best to characterise the Bill. Was it a rag-bag, a hodge-podge or the Christmas tree Bill to end all Christmas tree Bills? An hon. Friend of mine asserts that although it began as a Christmas tree Bill, it has grown and grown to the point that it now bears a closer resemblance to the Blackpool illuminations. New clause 5 is one such example.

However, given the nature of new clause 5, perhaps a cocktail Bill is a better metaphor. Perhaps it is a particularly strong Cosmopolitan—one that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Or perhaps it is an Old Etonian, which I understand is a mix of gin, bitters and crème de noyaux—guaranteed to leave one with a crashing headache the morning after. That is because the Bill still contains nothing to tackle the cost of living crisis gripping this country, it is still focused more on removing burdens from Ministers and officials than on helping the people and businesses of this country, and it still contains grave attacks on workers’ rights and health.

James Duddridge: I was with the hon. Lady not only in Committee but at the pre-legislative scrutiny stage, when I think a broader view was taken. If she does not think that the Bill contains the right deregulatory measures, what would the Opposition bring forward to help solve some of the real problems she is discussing?

Chi Onwurah: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. As I am sure he is aware, when we heard evidence in Committee we discussed some other options for deregulation. I do not intend to set out our deregulatory programme now—I am sure that you would not consider that to be in order, Mr Deputy Speaker—but I feel that the Opposition have the right, and indeed the duty, to comment on the fact that the entire contribution the Bill will make in savings is estimated to be £10 million over 10 years. I do not think that anyone on either side of the House would consider that to be a radical benefit.

New clause 5 and new schedule 1 insert a new part in the Licensing Act 2003 to introduce a new procedure for authorising the sale of alcohol where that sale is part of a community event, as we have heard. The Opposition absolutely believe that it is right to remove unnecessary regulatory and legislative burdens from individuals, civil society, business and public sector organisations, including the Women’s Institute and other organisations to which the Minister referred.

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Although we do not oppose the proposal, we have some concerns about which we are seeking assurances from the Minister. In Committee we discussed temporary event notices, the sale of chocolate liqueurs and other minor changes to licensing. Indeed, when we had a short debate on what constitutes a low level of alcohol consumption, I had a flashback to our debate on how many Mars bars’ worth of liqueurs it would take to intoxicate a child. At no stage did the Minister present at the time indicate that the Government were considering introducing what I think—I am sure the Minister will agree—is a large change to a complex licensing regime at this stage.

Introducing changes in that manner has become something of a hallmark of this Government. However, I understand that the Bill was written in draft about a year ago and that long before that Ministers were looking for proposals to put in it, so will the Minister explain why this proposal has been tabled at the last minute? The result is that interested parties have not had the opportunity to scrutinise it. Why the rush? The regime has been in place for 11 years, and although we support the aims of the amendment, we do not feel that the manner of its introduction is warranted. It is not the way to make changes to a complex licensing regime.

Will the Minister assure the House that any secondary regulations that are brought forward as a consequence of these changes will not be introduced in that way? Will he tell the House what consultation was undertaken with licensing authorities, in particular, and whether they support the change? How much time, if any, were they given to respond to it? I note that the Minister spoke of consultation following the consultation on the alcohol strategy, but the Local Government Association was certainly surprised by the inclusion of these proposals in this manner.

In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) criticised the Government’s overall approach to alcohol. The Minister thought he was criticising the Government’s alcohol strategy, but, as my hon. Friend pointed out, it is very difficult to discern an alcohol strategy to criticise. It is hard to criticise what does not exist, though it is right to criticise the fact that it does not exist. What kind of strategy introduces changes in this piecemeal manner? There is a document on the Government’s website entitled “Alcohol Strategy”, yet it is anything but a strategy. These seemingly random changes, introduced with very little notice, do not give Labour Members or stakeholders outside the House any confidence that Ministers are working hard towards any kind of specific objective or plan.

2 pm

As my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) pointed out, there are concerns to be raised about this proposal. We support its aims, but it is hard to judge the likely effects it will have when introduced in a such a disjointed and seemingly impulsive manner. As the LGA said in its briefing, which I am sure the Minister has read:

“Introducing this clause as a standalone item means that it cannot be considered in the context of a potential public health licensing objective, which the LGA strongly believes should be brought forward, and which the Government has said it is still considering. The proposed clause could be said to increase the availability and accessibility of alcohol, contributing to the high levels of alcohol-related health harm that exist.”

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If this were part of an overall strategy, we would be able to see how the Government addressed those criticisms. The LGA has also proposed a complete review of licensing. Has the Minister thought about commissioning such a review so that any further changes might be considered in terms of their effect on the wider regime?

Another concern we have, to which the Minister alluded briefly, is the potential cost of this change to local authorities. There is a prescribed fee, but it is not clear whether it will cover the cost to licensing authorities. He spoke of further consultation. Will he give more details on whom he will consult and what will be the remit of the consultation? I am sure he is aware that at present alcohol licensing is a net cost to local authorities of approximately £17 million a year. This is clearly a disincentive to refuse applications, as that may result in costly appeals, or to initiate enforcement action, especially when local authorities are struggling with the Government’s programme of cuts. It is important that the Minister does not load another cost burden on to them. I would therefore appreciate his clarifying the point about cost recovery.

The Minister confirmed that this licence is in addition to temporary event notices. Will he clarify the limit on the total number of days in a calendar year when events can be held under TENs? In Committee, he said that it would be 21 days. Does this proposal affect that in any way?

The Government’s alcohol policy is in complete chaos. Minimum unit pricing was promised, then ditched; we had another U-turn on multi-buy discounts; antisocial behaviour powers have been watered down; the sobriety schemes have seemingly been abandoned; reform of licensing never materialised; and the late-night levy looks set to raise less than 5% of what was promised. The Government blocked Labour’s proposals to make public health a licensing condition when the Bill that became the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 was discussed. The alcohol strategy, such that it is, includes a commitment to look at public health in cumulative assessments that councils undertake, but this does not seem to have been taken forward either. The Government have done nothing on alcohol education or alcohol advertising to kids. The Prime Minister promised

“a real effort to get to grips with the root cause”

of alcohol problems, with a strategy that attacked alcohol harms from “every angle”. The Minister spoke of looking to achieve a balance. Will he give greater clarity on the context in which this measure contributes to that balance?

I see no evidence of any kind of strategy on alcohol whatsoever. This is just another random licensing measure thrown into this Bill at the last minute without proper consultation, as we have heard from the interested parties. I urge the Minister and his colleagues to work with licensing authorities on the secondary regulations and to reassure the House that councils will not be harmed or hammered by the fees involved. In expectation of those assurances, we will not oppose these measures.

Kelvin Hopkins: I do not doubt the Minister’s sincerity when he says that he is concerned about alcohol harm, but I cannot see that as being consistent with this clause, which liberalises alcohol sales and use. It is a deregulatory measure, not a regulatory measure. I am a regulator rather than a deregulator. I believe profoundly

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in the nanny state where it is going to protect lives, particularly the lives of young people and vulnerable people, as in the case of alcohol.

Britain has a very serious alcohol problem, with appallingly high levels of binge drinking reported only this week, when we were compared very unfavourably with many other countries. We are simply not taking the alcohol problem seriously. It is all very well to say, “Have a drink when you arrive at your bed and breakfast—a little tincture to warm you up for the evening and get you started before you have your bottle of wine with dinner later on”, but it encourages a more relaxed culture of alcohol consumption when we should instead be raising concerns about it. Alcohol liver damage has increased massively in recent years. We have seen rising numbers of deaths from cirrhosis of the liver. There is an enormous burden on the national health service, especially in A and E departments at weekends. I wonder what the British Medical Association and the unions representing the staff in those departments feel about this.

Oceans of cheap alcohol are still being sold in supermarkets and bought and consumed illegally by young people, often with the collaboration of older people. These things are still not being addressed seriously. Vast numbers of people are drinking under age. They are being hooked on alcohol young so that they will spend their lives drinking and making more profits for the drinks industry. I am not a spoilsport. I enjoy alcohol myself, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you may have observed, though not, I hope, to excess. Nevertheless, I am aware of its dangers. Making the culture more liberal and relaxed reduces rather than increases concerns about alcohol and makes us less likely rather than more likely to be self-controlled.

My most serious concern is about the thousands of babies born severely and permanently damaged by alcohol consumed in their mothers’ pregnancy. A more relaxed attitude towards alcohol consumption as regards Women’s Institute functions, going to bed and breakfasts and so on will do nothing to dissuade women who are seeking to become pregnant, or who are pregnant, from consuming alcohol.

The scientific research that I have mentioned in this House on a number of occasions shows that even small amounts of alcohol cause damage to babies. If one is drinking oneself, one is causing damage to oneself. Even an alcoholic has a choice about whether to drink, but an unborn baby does not have a choice as to whether its mother does so. This is very unfair on mothers, and on women, but we have to think about the children and what happens to them. We do not even have notices in every maternity clinic giving advice to women not to drink at all if they are seeking to conceive or if they are pregnant, yet apparently—I have not visited one recently—they all have warnings about smoking, which is less dangerous to foetuses than alcohol.

The alcohol culture is being fed into our general culture surreptitiously by the drinks industry. It is ever so nice and cuddly when it talks about these things, but it is actually talking about an addictive drug that causes terrible problems. Providing advice to all women from the age of puberty onwards about the dangers of alcohol to unborn children is absolutely crucial. Until the Government put on every drink canister a warning to women that they should not drink at all during

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pregnancy—accompanied by a symbol of a pregnant woman, as happens in the United States—I will not be satisfied and will continue to pursue the issue.

We need minimum unit pricing. It is possible, even now, to buy vast quantities of alcohol very cheaply, including 3-litre bottles of cider, in supermarkets. A simple unit price of 50 p per unit would be reasonable. It would have no effect on beer drinkers in pubs or on the average wine drinker, but it would stop oceans of very cheap alcohol being handed to children and others who abuse alcohol.

The Government have to wake up and take alcohol seriously. Although this liberalising measure is cuddly, nice and warm and we all like the idea of women’s institutes having a little wine in the evening—that is fine—what we are actually doing is encouraging more alcohol consumption rather than less, and creating a more relaxed environment and culture for the consumption of alcohol. That is a mistake, given Britain’s serious problem with alcohol.

Norman Baker: Let me respond first to the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins). If he is going to judge the Government’s alcohol strategy, it is important that he does so in the round, rather than simply assuming that what we are discussing today represents its totality. The reality is that the Government has taken a number of steps to deal with alcohol harms and continues to do so.

The Home Office works in close conjunction with the Department of Health on these matters. We have made it easier for local police to close down problem premises. We have banned sales of alcohol below cost price. We are challenging the industry very firmly to make progress on the sorts of issues referred to by the hon. Gentleman, including the availability of high-strength, cheap 3-litre bottles of cider. I am also pushing the industry on how alcohol is promoted, particularly in supermarkets. We are taking a whole range of actions to try to deal with alcohol harms.

It is important, as part of a sensible strategy, to identify what the problems are and deal with them firmly, but we should not apply the same sledgehammer approach—if one may call it that—to an area where there is no problem, and there is no problem with a women’s institute offering someone a glass of wine. That is what today’s debate is about. The hon. Gentleman needs to judge the strategy in the round rather than assume that this represents its totality, as he appeared to do in his contribution.

Kelvin Hopkins: In all kinds of ways, Britain seems to resist imposing rules that seem restrictive, but in the end we are forced into them. I remember people opposing the wearing of crash helmets on motorcycles, while seat belts were not made compulsory here until years after other countries had done so. I also remember resistance to the breathalyser—it is only Barbara Castle who had a bit more courage and gumption to push it through—but now we recognise that drinking and driving is wrong. Is not the Minister just part of a long tradition of resisting change that will ultimately come about?

Norman Baker: I am in a long tradition of providing pragmatic answers to the problems that present themselves and of responding to them in a measured, rather than

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over-zealous, way. We have to remember that we have to take people with us—we need to win hearts and minds. I also think that Britain is less authoritarian than many other countries. Some countries appear to be happy for their Governments to direct their way of life more than we do, but people in this country do not like being directed by the Government of the day and it is right that we respect that healthy response.

Let me turn to the comments of the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), who, unless I am mistaken, does not appear to know that we actually did consult on the alcohol strategy, including a question on the ancillary sellers’ notice, which matured into the provision under discussion. It is not true to say that there has been no consultation on the strategy or the measure, because there has been a consultation.

Chi Onwurah: I did not say that there had been no consultation on the alcohol strategy; I said that no discernible alcohol strategy had come out of it and that the measures were not tabled in Committee or when the Bill was initially submitted.

Norman Baker: With respect, the hon. Lady said both things and the record will show that. There was a consultation, as part of the alcohol strategy, on a new, light-touch authorisation to reduce burdens on ancillary sellers of alcohol. That is what we are discussing this afternoon. It was consulted on, comments were fed back and they have informed the way in which we have taken matters forward.

2.15 pm

I want to stress, as I did earlier, that this House now agrees in principle on this matter and the details of the scheme will be worked through in consultation, so Opposition Members and anybody else who wants to contribute will be able to do so. Although we will establish the principle this afternoon—if the House agrees, as I hope it will—we have not set out what we think should be the starting fee or the fee cap. We have not consulted on the details of powers of entry where they may be appropriate. We have not made any views known on the final decision about the maximum size of an accommodation provider. We have not yet given details on alcohol limits, which my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) referred to earlier, because we are open to consultation on them. We have not yet given a definition of the eligible community group and so on. That is deliberate, because we want this to be open for consultation so that people can genuinely express their views and we can take them into account.

The hon. Lady is wrong to say that the measures have been tabled at the last minute, because they have not in the sense that they were subject to consultation as part of the alcohol strategy and the details will be resolved in a consultation exercise. I am afraid that her interpretation of the process is simply wrong. The Opposition are very keen to complain when the Government does not listen to people. We have been listening and that is why we have taken time to frame the measures in this particular way.

The hon. Lady complains, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), who is sitting further down the Opposition Front Bench, regularly

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does—because it is written down on a piece of paper they are supposed to read out, I imagine—that the Government’s alcohol strategy is apparently in complete chaos, but it is the Opposition’s strategy that is in complete chaos. The hon. Member for Luton North complains—understandably, in some ways—about his concerns about alcohol harms, but which Government brought in the liberalising Licensing Act 2003, which made alcohol available in more places for longer than at any time since the first world war? The Labour party did that. Labour Members cannot have it both ways, but that is what they seem to be trying to do.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North usually complains about late-night levies, but she does not mention the alcohol disorder zones her Government brought in, none of which was taken up. The Opposition need to be a little more careful in their accusations.

Kelvin Hopkins: In my defence, I was opposed to what the previous Government did and I raised these matters with the then Secretary of State.

Norman Baker: I am almost tempted to say that that is a compliment, but that goes without saying and the hon. Gentleman has put it on the record for the benefit of the House.

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central does not think that much is happening in terms of an alcohol strategy. Perhaps she has not noticed that her own local authority in Newcastle has introduced a late-night levy, which appears to be working rather well. I was very pleased to go there and join local councillors in launching it.

Chi Onwurah: I thank the Minister for giving way a second time, but once again his ascription to me of a lack of knowledge is not accurate. I am very familiar with Newcastle’s late-night levy. Indeed, I discussed it with the leader of Newcastle city council, Nick Forbes, only yesterday evening. In some ways, it is the burden of cuts on local authorities across the country and on the police that makes such levies necessary. In this case, it was businesses in Newcastle that wished to introduce it.

Norman Baker: Indeed they did, and I think they made a very wise decision and that businesses and the public in Newcastle will benefit from the Government’s sensible option of a late-night levy. I hope that other councils up and down the country will follow the example of the hon. Lady’s council and introduce such a levy, which not only helps deal with public disorder, but provides a necessary income stream to recognise the cost of disorder to a particular city.

I appreciate that the hon. Lady’s focus has been on the Deregulation Bill rather than on the subject of alcohol so she will not have had sight of all the issues, but she said that we have blocked the public health licensing objective. That is not true. The matter remains under consideration. The fact is that if she looks at the local alcohol action areas, she will see that they are being used as a pilot for what might be done for public health licensing objectives. I agree that there is a public health issue about alcohol that should be taken into account, but it is not as simple as it is sometimes made

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out. That matter is being taken forward under the guise of the local alcohol action areas introduced by the Government.

The hon. Lady mentioned fees, and I reiterate that they will be subject to consultation. She wondered whether local councils are out of pocket, and asserted that they are out of pocket as a consequence of handling the present licensing regime. Taking that at face value and assuming she is right for the purpose of this discussion, if that is the case, the introduction of a light-touch regime will divert people from what is—according to her—presumably a loss-making activity for local councils to one that is rather simpler and will therefore reduce the loss for local councils. That is the logic of her position, so I hope that she will welcome the measure on that basis. I confirm that it is subject to the affirmative procedure, so there will be a full opportunity for Members on both sides of the House to contribute to the discussion as the measure is taken forward in a sensible way.

Lastly, I can tell the hon. Member for Luton North that minimum unit pricing remains an option. It is on the radar—it has not been ruled out—and it will be particularly on the radar if the alcohol industry does not respond sensibly to the challenges made by the Government. I commend the new clause to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 5 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Schedule 1

‘Part to be inserted as Part 5A of the Licensing Act 2003

“Part 5A

sale of alcohol at community events etc and ancillary business sale of alcohol

Conditions for permitted sales

110A  General conditions

(1) A sale by retail of alcohol is a permitted sale by virtue of this Part if—

(a) the community event conditions (set out in section 110B or in regulations made under that section) or the ancillary business sales conditions (set out in section 110C or in regulations made under that section) are satisfied in relation to it, and

(b) the conditions set out in subsections (2) to (5) below are satisfied in relation to it.

(2) The sale must take place on premises specified in a notice that complies with section 110D (a “Part 5A notice”).

(3) No counter notice under section 110J must have been given in relation to the Part 5A notice.

(4) The sale must take place during the period of 36 months beginning with the date when the Part 5A notice takes effect.

(5) The sale must take place between 07.00 a.m. and 11.00 p.m.

110B  Community event conditions

(1) The community event conditions, in relation to a sale by retail of alcohol, are the conditions set out in subsections (2) to (6) and any additional conditions set out in regulations under subsection (7).

(2) The sale must be made by or on behalf of a body that is—

(a) of a prescribed description,

(b) does not trade for profit, and

(c) meets any prescribed criteria.

(3) The sale must be ancillary to an event that—

(a) is taking place on the premises,

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(b) is organised by the body by or on whose behalf the sale is made,

(c) has been advertised in advance, and

(d) meets any prescribed criteria.

(4) The sale must take place on the premises during the course of the event.

(5) The alcohol must be sold for consumption on the premises during the course of the event.

(6) The number of persons present on the premises at the time of the sale must not exceed 300.

(7) Regulations may provide for additional conditions prescribed in the regulations to be community event conditions.

110C  Ancillary business sales conditions

(1) The ancillary business sales conditions, in relation to a sale by retail of alcohol, are the conditions set out in subsections (2) to (5) and any additional conditions set out in regulations under subsection (6).

(2) The sale must be made by or on behalf of a body that—

(a) is of a prescribed description, and

(b) meets any prescribed criteria.

(3) The sale must take place on premises that—

(a) are managed by the body by or on whose behalf the sale is made,

(b) are of a prescribed description, and

(c) meet any prescribed criteria.

(4) The sale must be ancillary to the provision of goods or services to a person on the premises where the sale takes place.

(5) Except in prescribed circumstances, the alcohol must be sold for consumption on those premises.

(6) Regulations may provide for additional conditions prescribed in the regulations to be ancillary business sales conditions.

Part 5A notices

110D  Conditions for validity of notices

(1) A notice complies with this section if the conditions set out in subsections (2) to (10) are satisfied in relation to the notice.

(2) The notice must specify whether—

(a) the community event conditions (set out in section 110B or in regulations under that section), or

(b) the ancillary business sales conditions (set out in section 110C or in regulations under that section),

will be satisfied in relation to sales of alcohol on the premises in question.

(3) The notice must specify (for the purposes of section 110A(2))—

(a) in the case of a notice that specifies the ancillary business sales conditions, the set of premises to which it relates;

(b) in the case of a notice that specifies the community event conditions, no more than three sets of community premises, each of which must be wholly or partly in the area of the same licensing authority.

(4) The notice must be given, on behalf of the body by or on whose behalf the sale of alcohol on the premises would take place, by a person who is aged 18 or over and is concerned in the management of the body.

(5) The notice must be given to the relevant licensing authority, accompanied by the prescribed fee.

(6) Unless the notice is given to the relevant licensing authority by means of a relevant electronic facility, a copy of the notice must be given to each relevant person.

(7) The notice must be in the prescribed form.

(8) The notice must specify the date when it takes effect.

(9) The specified date must be at least 10 working days, but no more than 3 months, after the day on which the notice is given.

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Where subsection (6) applies, the notice is treated as given only when that subsection is complied with.

(10) The notice must contain any other information that regulations require it to contain.

(11) In this Part, “relevant person”, in relation to any premises, means—

(a) the chief officer of police for any police area in which the premises are situated;

(b) the local authority by which statutory functions are exercisable in any area in which the premises are situated in relation to minimising or preventing the risk of pollution of the environment or of harm to human health.

110E  Special restriction on giving of notices

(1) This section applies where—

(a) a Part 5A notice is given on behalf of a body, and

(b) a counter notice under section 110J is given in relation to the Part 5A notice.

(2) No further Part 5A notice may be given in respect of any premises specified in the notice, whether on behalf of that body or on behalf of another body that is an associate of it, before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which the counter notice is given.

(3) However, the restriction in subsection (2) ceases to apply if the counter notice is revoked under section 110K or quashed by a court.

(4) For the purposes of this section, a body is an associate of another body if it would be an associate of the other body for the purposes of the Estate Agents Act 1979 (see section 32(4) to (6) of that Act).

110F  Date when Part 5A notice takes effect

(1) A Part 5A notice takes effect on the date specified under section 110D(8).

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if a counter notice is given under section 110J in relation to the notice.

(For the case where a counter notice is revoked or quashed by a court, see section 110K(2).)

110G  Acknowledgement of notice etc

(1) This section applies where a relevant licensing authority receives a notice that is, or purports to be, a Part 5A notice.

(2) The authority must give written acknowledgement of the receipt of the notice to the person who gave it.

(3) The acknowledgment must be given—

(a) before the end of the first working day following the day on which it was received, or

(b) if the day on which it was received was not a working day, before the end of the second working day following that day.

(4) If the licensing authority is of the opinion that the notice does not comply with section 110D, the authority must as soon as possible give to the person who gave the notice written notification of the reasons for its opinion.

(5) Subsection (2) does not apply where, before the time by which acknowledgement of the receipt of the notice must be given in accordance with subsection (3), the person who gave the notice has been given a counter notice under section 110J.

110H  Theft, loss etc of Part 5A notice

(1) Where a Part 5A notice is lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed, the person who gave the notice may apply to the relevant licensing authority for a copy of the notice.

(2) The application must be accompanied by the prescribed fee.

(3) Where an application is made in accordance with this section, the licensing authority must issue the applicant with a copy of the notice (certified by the authority to be a true copy) if it is satisfied that the notice has been lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed.

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(4) This Act applies in relation to a copy issued under this section as it applies in relation to an original notice.

Objections and counter notices

110I  Objection to Part 5A notice by a relevant person

(1) Where a relevant person who is given a Part 5A notice is satisfied that allowing alcohol to be sold on the premises (or any of the premises) to which the notice relates would undermine a licensing objective, the relevant person must give a notice stating the reasons for being so satisfied (an “objection notice”)—

(a) to the relevant licensing authority,

(b) to the person who gave the Part 5A notice, and

(c) to every other relevant person.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply at any time after the relevant person has received a copy of a counter notice under section 110J in relation to the Part 5A notice.

(3) An objection notice may be given only during the period beginning with the day on which the relevant person is given the Part 5A notice and ending with the third working day following that day (“the three-day period”).

(4) The restriction in subsection (3) does not apply to an objection notice based on—

(a) things occurring after the end of the three-day period, or

(b) information that the relevant person was unaware of, and could not with reasonable diligence have discovered, until after the end of that period.

110J  Counter notices

(1) Where a relevant licensing authority receives a Part 5A notice, the relevant licensing authority may—

(a) give the person who gave the Part 5A notice a counter notice under this section;

(b) give a copy of the counter notice to each relevant person.

(2) Where the relevant licensing authority receives an objection notice given in compliance with the requirement imposed by section 110I(3), the relevant licensing authority must decide whether to give a counter notice (and, if it does so decide, give that notice) no later than whichever of the following is the earlier—

(a) the day before the date when the Part 5A would take effect (see section 110D(8));

(b) the expiry of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the objection notice is received by the relevant licensing authority.

(3) The power conferred by subsection (1) may not be exercised at any time after the Part 5A notice takes effect unless an objection notice under section 110I has been given, by virtue of subsection (4) of that section, in relation to the notice.

(4) The counter notice must—

(a) be in the prescribed form, and

(b) be given in the prescribed manner.

110K  Counter notices: revocation etc

(1) A relevant licensing authority must revoke a counter notice given under section 110J if—

(a) the counter notice was given in consequence of one or more objection notices under section 110I, and

(b) the objection notice or (as the case may be) each of them is withdrawn by the person who gave it or is quashed by a court.

(2) Where a counter notice is revoked or is quashed by a court—

(a) the counter notice is disregarded for the purposes of section 110A(3), except in relation to any time before the day on which it is revoked or quashed,

(b) the Part 5A notice takes effect on that day, and

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(c) the relevant licensing authority must as soon as possible notify the person who gave the Part 5A notice of the date on which it takes effect.

Rights of entry, production of notice, etc

110L  Right of entry where Part 5A notice given

(1) A constable or an authorised officer may, at any reasonable time, enter premises to which a Part 5A notice relates to assess the likely effect of the notice on the promotion of the crime prevention objective.

(2) An authorised officer exercising the power conferred by this section must, if so requested, produce evidence of the officer’s authority to exercise the power.

(3) It is an offence intentionally to obstruct an authorised officer exercising a power conferred by this section.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

(5) In this section “authorised officer” means—

(a) an officer of the licensing authority in whose area the premises are situated, or

(b) if the premises are situated in the area of more than one licensing authority, an officer of any of those authorities,

authorised for the purposes of this Act.

110M  Duty to keep and produce Part 5A notice

(1) This section applies whenever premises are being used for sales of alcohol which are, or are purported to be, permitted sales by virtue of this Part.

(2) The person who gave the Part 5A notice must secure that a copy of the notice is either—

(a) prominently displayed at the premises, or

(b) kept at the premises in the custody of that person or of someone who is present and working at the premises and whom that person has nominated for the purposes of this section (a “nominated person”).

(3) Where a copy of the Part 5A notice is kept in the custody of a nominated person (and not prominently displayed at the premises) the person who gave the Part 5A notice must secure that a notice—

(a) stating that the Part 5A notice is in the nominated person’s custody, and

(b) specifying the position held at the premises by the nominated person,

is prominently displayed at the premises.

(4) It is an offence for the person who gave the Part 5A notice to fail, without reasonable excuse, to comply with subsection (2) or (where it applies) subsection (3).

(5) Where—

(a) a copy of the Part 5A notice is not prominently displayed at the premises, and

(b) no notice is displayed as mentioned in subsection (3),

a constable or authorised officer may require the person who gave the Part 5A notice to produce a copy of it for examination.

(6) Where a notice is displayed as mentioned in subsection (3), a constable or authorised officer may require the nominated person to produce a copy of the Part 5A notice for examination.

(7) An authorised officer exercising the power conferred by subsection (5) or (6) must, if so requested, produce evidence of the officer’s authority to exercise the power.

(8) It is an offence for a person to fail, without reasonable excuse, to produce a copy of a Part 5A notice in accordance with a requirement under subsection (5) or (6).

(9) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

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(10) In this section “authorised officer” has the meaning given in section 110L(5).


110N The relevant licensing authority

(1) For the purposes of this Part, the “relevant licensing authority”, in relation to any premises, is determined in accordance with this section.

(2) In the case of a Part 5A notice that specifies the ancillary business sales conditions or in the case of Part 5A notice that specifies the community event conditions in relation to only one set of premises, the relevant licensing authority is, subject to subsection (3), the authority in whose area the premises are situated.

(3) Where the premises are situated in the areas of two or more licensing authorities, the relevant licensing authority is—

(a) the licensing authority in whose area the greater or greatest part of the premises is situated, or

(b) if there is no authority to which paragraph (a) applies, such one of the authorities as the person giving the Part 5A notice may choose.

(4) In the case of a Part 5A notice that specifies the community event conditions in relation to more than one set of premises, the relevant licensing authority is—

(a) if there is only one licensing authority in whose area each set of premises is wholly or partly situated, that licensing authority;

(b) if each set of premises falls partly in the area of one authority and also partly in the area of another, such one of them as the person giving the Part 5A notice may choose.”’.—(Norman Baker.)

This amendment inserts the new Part 5A of the Licensing Act 2003 (see the explanatory statement to amendment NC5).

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Schedule 18

Legislation no longer of practical use

The Solicitor-General (Oliver Heald): I beg to move amendment 58, page 157, line 11, at end insert—

‘Mining Industry Act 1920 (c. 50)

3A The Mining Industry Act 1920 is repealed.

3B In consequence of paragraph 3A, in Schedule 4 to the Mines and Quarries Act 1954, omit the entry for the Mining Industry Act 1920.

Mining Industry Act 1926 (c. 28)

3C (1) In the Mining Industry Act 1926, omit section 20 (which confers power on coal-mining companies to establish profit sharing schemes irrespective of the terms of their articles of association).

(2) The repeal made by sub-paragraph (1) is to have no effect in relation to any scheme still in existence that was established, and is being carried on, in reliance on the power conferred by section 20 of the Mining Industry Act 1926.’.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 75 and 59.

Amendment 4, page 162, line 22, at end insert—

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Part 7A

Civil Law

Defamation Act 1996 (c.31)

34A Omit section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996 (which allows an individual litigant in defamation cases to waive the ban in Article IX of the Bill of Rights on proceedings in Parliament being impeached or questioned in court).’.

The Joint Committees on Parliamentary Privilege in 1999 and 2013 both recommended the repeal of this hardly-used provision.

Government amendment 60.

Amendment 73, page 163, line 12, at end insert—

‘Part 9 Communications

Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988

37 The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is amended as follows.

38 Section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (Reception and re-transmission of wireless broadcast by cable) is revoked.’.

Section 73 was introduced in the 1980s to encourage cable roll-out as a competing platform to terrestrial (analogue) television. This has clearly now been achieved and cable is a highly-effective and well-resourced competitor to Sky and Freeview.

The Solicitor-General: This group contains amendments to schedule 18, which makes provision for repealing legislation that is no longer of practical use. Before I outline the amendments, may I say how much I welcome re-encountering the hon. Members for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) and for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), whose very helpful and constructive approach in Committee has improved the Bill?

The Mining Industry Act 1920 and section 20 of the Mining Industry Act 1926 will be repealed as they are no longer needed for mining and quarrying. Most of the Mining Industry Act 1920 has already been repealed, and we now seek to repeal the remaining provisions. That will not affect rights to ownership. The remaining sections are outdated administrative arrangements. For example, functions were originally conferred on the Board of Trade, but were long ago transferred to the Secretary of State through a transfer of functions. Sections 18 and 22 concern the powers to make drainage schemes for groups of mines, but they are now dealt with by negotiations between mine owners and other local landowners. Sections 25 and 26 are technical provisions.

Overall, the only matter that needs to be mentioned is section 20 of the 1926 Act, which provides for the establishment of profit-sharing schemes. It of course pre-dates the nationalisation and privatisation of the coal mining industry, as well as modern companies legislation. Such legislation should apply to coal mining companies in the same way as it applies to any others, so there is no need for any special provision. However, the amendment contains a saving provision, because it would clearly not be fair to undermine any existing profit-sharing schemes, and they will be allowed to continue.

Most of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 has already been repealed. Section 37, which relates to the licensing of tidal works by harbour authorities, disapplies the

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requirements of section 34 of the Coast Protection Act 1949. That Act has already been repealed, so the saving provision is no longer of any practical effect.

Amendment 59 will extend the repeal of the Milk (Cessation of Production) Act 1985 to Northern Ireland. EU legislation in 1984 set up a system of production—the milk quota system—in which, in essence, each producer was allocated a quota. That will end on 31 March 2015, so the underlying EU legislation will cease to be effective next April. The amendment will allow the Bill to repeal and revoke all relevant UK legislation relating to Northern Ireland, as well as England and Wales.

Amendment 60 will ensure that the saving provision in paragraph 3 of schedule 18 to the Housing Act 1988 will cease to have effect in England, although it will continue to apply in Wales. The saving provision has become redundant in England. Essentially, sections 56 to 58 of the Housing Act 1980, which have been repealed, enabled landlords to grant assured tenancies for newly built or newly repaired dwellings. The vast majority of tenancies were converted in 1989 into new style assured tenancies under the Housing Act 1988. Sections 56 to 58 were repealed subject to a saving provision, which is now being abolished because there are no longer any assured tenancies under the 1980 Act in existence in England, and it is therefore redundant.

To turn to the non-Government amendments, amendment 73 would require the Government to revoke section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) for raising that important issue. The effect of section 73 is that public service broadcasters cannot charge cable services for the inclusion of their channels on these services.

Section 73 is part of a much wider framework supporting the availability of television and investment in television programming in the UK. A variety of rules and regulations affect the production, availability and ease of discovery of public service programming and its relationship with the different platforms—cable, satellite, digital TV and terrestrial—that carry it. They include the obligations on public service broadcasters to offer their content to all relevant platforms, the rules governing payments by broadcasters for technical platform services and the powers for regulators to compel these services to carry public service broadcast content.

This is an area with many competing interests. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport produced a policy paper, “Connectivity, Content and Consumers” last year. The Government stated that their policy objective was zero net charges, where fees for access to the main platforms—cable, satellite, digital TV and terrestrial—would be cancelled out by charges made by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, so creating a zero net charge regime. That is close to the current market position, and it recognises the benefits to platforms, public service broadcasters and consumers.

Section 73 is an integral part of that picture, but the arrangement is under pressure. Online services rely on section 73 to exploit public service broadcaster content, but no benefit flows back to the public service broadcaster.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Hear, hear.

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The Solicitor-General: There is litigation about that at present and my hon. Friend, who is right to raise the issue, will know that a case about to be heard in the Court of Appeal has a bearing on the issue. Because the case is sub judice, I cannot say much more about it, but it would be wrong to impose timetables for resolving the issues as regards satellite and cable without taking into account the situation—once it is definitive—as regards online services. I will obviously listen to my hon. Friend’s arguments, but he might want to think about whether the Government are right to wait for the decision from the Court of Appeal before taking action that might not be appropriate.

2.30 pm

Philip Davies: The problem is that the litigation has been going on for four years already. Of course there are competing interests, but does my hon. and learned Friend not accept that section 73 was created in the 1980s, when the Government wanted to encourage the roll-out of the cable network? Given that that policy objective has been achieved, the section should surely be repealed.

The Solicitor-General: I agree to a considerable extent with the point that my hon. Friend makes. There is no question that the legislation was introduced to help cable roll-out. However, it is the definition of a cable service that is at issue in the Court of Appeal case. It is correct that it has taken a considerable amount of time to get to this point, where the Court of Appeal will soon be able to list the case and, hopefully, determine it. Having waited for that period for a definite conclusion, it would be wrong to act in haste and perhaps repent at leisure. I will be interested to hear his remarks and I think that there will be time for him to make them—I hope so, anyway.

I am pleased to announce that the Government will support the defamation amendment—amendment 4. It is a sensible amendment. As the House will be aware, the Government have made a commitment to repeal section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996. Their response to the report of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege in 2013 stated that

“repealing Section 13 would be the wisest course of action”

and that the Government

“intends to do so when Parliamentary time and a suitable legislative opportunity allows.”

There has long been discussion about the provision. The 1999 and 2013 Joint Committees on Parliamentary Privilege recommended that section 13 be repealed. The Government agree with the conclusion of those Committees that section 13 is at odds with the principle of freedom of speech, which it is the privilege of this House as a whole to enjoy, not just individual Members. Section 13 also creates an imbalance, because one party to a proceeding may choose to use the parliamentary record when the other party does not wish that to happen. The provision has never been used and it creates an anomaly. For those reasons, I urge the House to accept amendment 4.

Chi Onwurah: I echo the pleasure that was expressed by the Solicitor-General at the reunion of the team that had so many lively and, at times, constructive debates in Committee.

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The Opposition do not oppose Government amendments 58, 75, 59 and 60. However, I would like to make a small point about process. Will the Solicitor-General clarify for the House why time is being spent on removing obsolete legislation in parallel with the Law Commission’s statute law repeal programme? Given the resources available, the Law Commission’s work has been of a very high quality. We finished the Committee stage of the Bill with but seven minutes to spare, as the Solicitor-General will well remember, and we will not have time to discuss all the amendments we would like to discuss on Report.

The Solicitor-General: I very much agree with the hon. Lady that the Law Commission does a fantastic job. It is preparing the measures that she mentions. That does not mean that if a Department knows that it has a piece of redundant or useless legislation, it cannot ask the House to get rid of it. There is not an either/or choice; we can do both.

Chi Onwurah: I thank the Solicitor-General for that clarification. However, I think that the House should focus on that which will make the most difference to our constituents and the cost of living crisis. We should not seek to work in parallel with the Law Commission. However, I take his point. Although I am sad to see the repeal of the Mining Industry Act 1920 and the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, I agree with him that they do not serve a useful purpose at this time. It seems that this Tory Government are tidying up the last bits of mess that were left by the last one in undermining those great industries. I agree that, at this stage, those Acts perform no purpose.

We have some sympathy with amendment 73 on copyright, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). We only wish that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport showed as much focus on the long-term future of the communications industry as the hon. Gentleman. As the Solicitor-General said, it is an anomaly that the BBC and other public service broadcasters have to pay cable companies for the transmission of their programmes, which so many of us enjoy. I should declare an interest because I served for six years at Ofcom, which regulates all the companies concerned.

It is impossible to explain to anyone outside the industry why it is not the Pay-TV companies that pay the BBC and ITV to carry their great content, but the BBC and ITV who pay the Pay-TV companies to do so. That cannot be right. We are glad that the discussions that the Solicitor-General mentioned have resulted in reductions in transmission fees to net zero. However, we do not feel that net zero is good enough. Public service broadcasters create fantastic, valuable and creative content that is the envy of the world, and they should be paid for it.

The Solicitor-General said that the legislation is complex and we recognise that. However, we question what work the Government are doing in this area. They dropped their communications Green Paper two years ago. Since then, we have had no meaningful communications strategy, even though the industry is critical to our economic and cultural future. There does not appear to be any work going on in the area now. The policy paper that the Solicitor-General mentioned so enthusiastically,

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“Connectivity, Content and Consumers”, does not look into the future in any meaningful way. I remind the House that Labour’s Communications Act 2003 looked 10 years into the future.

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): Yes, forward thinking.

Chi Onwurah: As my hon. Friend says, it was forward thinking. However, those 10 years have elapsed and we are left bereft of a long-term strategy. With no communications Green Paper and no communications strategy, is it any wonder that it is left to Members such as the hon. Member for Shipley to raise such key issues? Having said that, we are not confident, given the lack of strategy and long-term vision, that the Government would have a handle on the impact of repealing this measure. We therefore find it difficult to support amendment 73.

I will turn briefly to amendment 4 on defamation. As the Solicitor-General said, it has cross-party support and it appears to be sensible, so we will support it.

Philip Davies: It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), and I am grateful for her kind words. From what she said I understood that there is overall, general support—if perhaps not specific support—for my point. This is the second day running on which my amendments seem to have had more support from the Labour Front Bench than from the Government Front Bench—a rather uncomfortable position in which to find myself, but I am grateful nevertheless.

I will speak briefly because time is limited and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) wishes to contribute. Section 73 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 was created in the 1980s, when the Government—understandably—wanted to encourage the roll-out of the cable network to stimulate competition with terrestrial TV. That was a noble aim, but it has been achieved. The cable network now reaches half the population, and there is fierce inter-platform competition between pay-TV platforms and free-to-air TV platforms. It is therefore clear that section 73 is completely outdated and not achieving the purpose for which it was intended. That purpose has already been achieved, so the measure needs to be repealed.

Since cable TV derives even greater value from public service content, and delivers less and less in return as more adverts are skipped on pay TV, section 73 is preventing the normal commercial response, which would be to commercially negotiate the supply of content, putting at risk investment in the programmes that people want to see. Why should public service broadcasters, which are investing heavily in the UK’s creative economy, subsidise the business models of large global companies such as Liberty Global? That is clearly not fair. The litigation that the Solicitor-General mentioned has already taken four years and could still take a while longer, and I am not sure that we can afford to sit back and wait more years, while the issue is kicked into the long grass in such a way. Under the Communications Act 2003, public service broadcasters must, under their current licences, offer their public service broadcast channels to cable and satellite platforms so that consumers will not lose out if that is repealed.

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Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) said, the Opposition have a lot of sympathy for the hon. Gentleman’s amendment, but we were not clear whether it means that things would be opened up for negotiation—whether or not to pay; how much to pay—or whether no payments and no broadcasting would be possible. That is our uncertainty.

Philip Davies: It would enable a normal commercial arrangement to be reached, but it would not do anything to stop the terms of the Communications Act 2003, under which broadcasters must offer their public service broadcasting channels to cable and satellite platforms. That would still be the case, but the amendment would enable a commercial negotiation to take place, which would be fair to both parties. Otherwise, the situation works for neither party; it is to everybody’s advantage that an agreement is reached. Terrestrial broadcasters want their content on cable, and cable wants that content out there, so there is reason for reaching an agreement.

The Solicitor-General: I am carefully following my hon. Friend’s logic and he is looking at two aspects: pay TV and satellite. The fastest-growing area, however, is online, which is what the court case is about. Does he recognise that it would be a mistake to leave matters on the basis he suggests, without taking account of the online position? That needs to be tackled once we know the court decision.

Philip Davies: All these matters need to be tackled, and my amendment seeks to say just that to the Government. The problem is that they are not being tackled and are causing an unfair disadvantage to public service broadcasters. That is my point. Pay-TV companies are charging monthly subscriptions for access to pay TV, when most of the viewing is on public service broadcasting channels, which are an essential part of the offer being made. For example, ITV invests around £1 billion a year on programming, the majority of which is original UK content, driving UK economic growth and provided free to viewers at no cost to the taxpayer. Continuing to do that depends on its being able to make a commercial return on its investment, which at the moment it does not.

Section 73 currently allows platforms and online operators to extract increasing amounts of value from free-to-air content, with no return to investors, rightsholders and talent, or the UK creative economy. Those platforms are perfectly happy to pay for other channels on ITV, such as ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4, through normal commercial negotiations, so it is hard to understand why they would not also be prepared to do that for the main channel. Section 73 of the 1988 Act is completely outdated and does a great disservice to public service broadcasters. It has created unfair terms and conditions for public service broadcasters, and even if the Government do not accept my amendment, I hope that they will consider the issue and come back soon with proposals to deal with this serious anomaly concerning cable TV and online content.

2.45 pm

Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): I will not speak for long as I am aware that one of my

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former colleagues, a fellow survivor of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash), also wishes to contribute.

On behalf of Members across the House, I thank the Clerks for their assistance on the Committee, particularly Liam Laurence Smyth, the Clerk of the Journals, who so skilfully kept most members of the Committee in order. I felt quite intimidated as a member of that Committee because we had such august parliamentarians as the hon. Members for Stone and for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt)—now promoted to shadow Education Secretary—and of course yourself, Madam Deputy Speaker, the most able member of the Joint Committee, who ensured that we kept things right.

Amendment 4 stands in my name and those of the hon. Member for Stone and others, and—as you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, having served on the Committee—it is the second attempt by a Joint Committee to get this legislation removed from the statute book.

Briefly, back in the mid-1990s, Mr Neil Hamilton, then a Member of Parliament, was seeking to sue The Guardian for defamation over what turned out to be true allegations about his cash links with Mohamed Al-Fayed. As I am sure the whole House knows, under parliamentary privilege Members are not allowed to use parliamentary proceedings in a civil or criminal case. Mr Hamilton persuaded the then Conservative Government to introduce a clause that allowed a Member of Parliament to waive their privilege, so that they could use parliamentary proceedings as evidence in a defamation case when suing a newspaper. However, it was done in such a way that a newspaper could not also seek to have parliamentary privilege waived. That created an unfair playing field and, frankly, was done to help Mr Hamilton, who it then turned out was a liar and a crook—that is probably why he is a member of UKIP these days. The Joint Committee in 1999 and again last year recommended that the measure be taken out of statute because it was unfair on newspapers and an abuse of privilege.

Obviously, the amendment is supported by the Opposition, and my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) made clear our support last Thursday during the debate on parliamentary privilege. I welcome the fact that the names of the Solicitor-General and the Deputy Leader of the House now appear next to the amendment. I assume that they speak for both parts of the coalition and that the Government will be addressing the issue. To conclude, this is about silly legislation that should never have been introduced, and I welcome the fact that the Government are taking the Joint Committee’s recommendation on board.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): I am most grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your service on the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege along with me and the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty), not to mention the litany of others—the hon. Gentleman has already mentioned them, so I do not need to. Amendment 4 is necessary, and I will refer to articles 163 to 170 of the Committee’s report, which include our recommendations for the repeal of section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996, just to

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get that on the record and make it easier for people to follow what is being said—we do not have much time to go into all the ins and outs.

The hon. Gentleman has explained the background to this issue, but I will add one or two further points. As my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General stated, the proposal was endorsed by the 1999 Joint Committee, and most recently by the 2013 Joint Committee, in your presence, Madam Deputy Speaker. The 1999 Joint Committee stated that,

“the enactment of section 13, seeking to remedy a perceived injustice, had created indefensible anomalies of its own which should not be allowed to continue”.

That is why it recommended that section 13 be repealed. The fundamental flaw identified by the 1999 Joint Committee was that,

“the section undermined the basis of privilege: freedom of speech was the privilege of the House as a whole and not of the individual Member in his or her own right, although an individual Member could assert and rely on it.”

The 1999 Committee noted that,

“the anomaly that section 13 was available only in defamation proceedings and not in any other form of civil action”

or criminal action. The Committee pointed out that,

“since the exercise of section 13 is a matter of individual choice, where two people are involved in the same action, one may choose to waive privilege and another may not.”

The 1999 Committee recommend that,

“the mischief sought to be remedied by section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996 should be cured by a different means: the replacement of section 13 with a short statutory provision empowering each House to waive Article 9 for the purpose of any court proceedings, whether relating to defamation or to any other matter, where the words spoken or the acts done in proceedings in Parliament would not expose the speaker of the words or the doer of the acts to any legal liability.”

That approach was supported by Lord Lester of Herne Hill, and by Dr Adam Tucker and Geoffrey Lock, a former head of the research division in the House of Commons Library.

The Newspaper Society opposed any discretionary power to waive privilege, the use of which would be unpredictable and retrospective. It argued that,

“the power of waiver could create a chilling effect, by the mere threat or possibility of its use, which would be detrimental to openness of debate and press reporting of proceedings in Parliament.”

In its response to the Government consultation, the legislative council of Western Australia argued that,

“it was preferable for privilege not to be waived for any reason, in order to avoid the potential for the waiver being used for purely political purposes.”

Our Clerk of the House of Commons, the distinguished Sir Robert Rogers, who is sadly retiring, told us that his preference would be for the repeal of section 13, “without replacement”. The Media Lawyers Association took the same view.

In evidence, the Government told the 2013 Committee:

“There are clearly problems with Section 13 of the Defamation Act. It is at odds with the principle that freedom of speech is a privilege of the House, not just individual members and it can create an imbalance where one party to proceedings can choose to use the parliamentary record but the other cannot.”

At that time, the Government told us that,

“the Government is not aware of any instances in which anyone has used the power of waiver and as such it would not appear to be a pressing priority to repeal Section 13.”

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On reflection, the Government have decided that repealing section 13 is a good idea. We are grateful to them for following our recommendation.

I ought to say that, initially, there was an attempt to include the proposal in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill but, as a result of consultation, members of the Committee agreed that it was better to include it in the Deregulation Bill, which is why we are debating it. The Committee recommends the repeal of section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996. That is all I have to say for the time being.

The Solicitor-General: I commend the wise words of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash). He summarised the position extremely well and I am glad that the proposal is going ahead.

I should tell my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) that the Government will bring forward proposals for consultation when the court case, which is set down for later this year, has concluded. I ask him not to press his amendment to a Division on the basis that the Government are taking the issue seriously.

In response to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), the coherent strategy set out in the connectivity paper covers all the main issues: electronic programme guides, PSB prominence, bundling, switching off content, zero net fees, investment policy, child protection on the internet, internet access and comprehensive programme issues. It is a proper document, and she unfairly belittled it.

The only other point I wanted to make before commending the amendments is on the Law Commission, which does a marvellous job. I should like to put on the record the Government’s gratitude to Lord Justice Lloyd Jones, who heads it, and all the people who work for it. It is a marvellous institution.

Amendment 58 agreed to.

Schedule 18

Legislation no longer of practical use

Amendments made: 75, page 159, line 32, at end insert—

‘Merchant Shipping Act 1988 (c. 12)

The Merchant Shipping Act 1988 is repealed.’.

This amendment repeals the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 in the United Kingdom. The only operative provision is section 37. Section 37 provides for the disapplication of the requirements of the Coast Protection Act 1949, which has been repealed.

Amendment 59, page 162, line 2, at end insert—

‘The Milk (Cessation of Production) (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (S.I. 1985/958 (N.I. 9)) is revoked.’.

This amendment revokes the Milk (Cessation of Production) ( Northern Ireland) Order 1985. All schemes made under this Order were revoked in 2007, and it is not intended to make any further schemes under it. The underlying

European milk quota system is intended to cease with effect from 31 March 2015.

Amendment 4, page 162, line 22, at end insert—

Part 7A

Civil Law

Defamation Act 1996 (c.31)

34A Omit section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996 (which allows an individual litigant in defamation cases to waive the ban in Article IX of the Bill of Rights on proceedings in Parliament being impeached or questioned in court).’.

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The Joint Committees on Parliamentary Privilege in 1999 and 2013 both recommended the repeal of this hardly used provision.

Amendment 60, page 163, line 12, at end insert—

Part 9


Housing Act 1988 (c. 50)

36 (1) Paragraph 3 of Schedule 18 to the Housing Act 1988 (saving provision in respect of repeal of sections 56 to 58 of the Housing Act 1980) ceases to have effect in relation to tenancies of dwelling-houses in England.

(2) Accordingly, in that paragraph of that Schedule, after “tenancy” insert “of a dwelling-house in Wales”.’.—(Oliver Heald.)

This amendment provides that the saving provision in paragraph 3 of Schedule

18 to the Hous

ing Act 1988 ceases to have effect in relation to tenancies of dwelling-houses in England (and so will continue only for Wales). This is because no assured tenancies under section 56 of the Housing Act 1980 remain in existence for England.

New Clause 2

Requirements to wear safety helmets: exemption for Sikhs: Northern Ireland

‘(1) Article 13 of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1990 (S.I. 1990/246) is amended in accordance with subsections (2) to (8).

(2) In paragraph (1), for “on a construction site” substitute “at a workplace”.

(3) In paragraph (2), in sub-paragraph (a), for “on a construction site” substitute “at a workplace”.

(4) In paragraph (5), in the opening words, for “on a construction site” substitute “at a workplace”.

(5) After paragraph (6) insert—

“(6A) This Article does not apply to a Sikh who—

(a) works, or is training to work, in an occupation that involves (to any extent) providing an urgent response to fire, riot or other hazardous situations, and

(b) is at the workplace—

(i) to provide such a response in circumstances where the wearing of a safety helmet is necessary to protect the Sikh from a risk of injury, or

(ii) to receive training in how to provide such a response in circumstances of that kind.

(6B) This Article also does not apply to a Sikh who—

(a) is a member of Her Majesty’s forces or a person providing support to Her Majesty’s forces, and

(b) is at the workplace—

(i) to take part in a military operation in circumstances where the wearing of a safety helmet is necessary to protect the Sikh from a risk of injury, or

(ii) to receive training in how to take part in such an operation in circumstances of that kind.”

(6) In paragraph (7)—

(a) omit the definitions of “building operations”, “works of engineering construction” and “construction site”;

(b) before the definition of “injury”, insert—

““Her Majesty’s forces” has the same meaning as in the Armed Forces Act 2006;”;

(c) at the end insert—

““workplace” means any premises where work is being undertaken, including premises occupied or normally occupied as a private dwelling; and “premises” includes any place and, in particular, includes—

(a) any vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft, (b) any installation (including a floating installation

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or one resting on the seabed or its subsoil or on other land covered with water or its subsoil), and(c) any tent or moveable structure.”

(7) In paragraph (8), in sub-paragraph (b), for “on a construction site” substitute “at a workplace”.

(8) In the heading, for “on construction sites” substitute “at workplaces”.

(9) Article 13A of that Order (protection of Sikhs from racial discrimination in connection with requirements as to wearing of safety helmets) is amended as follows.

(10) In paragraph (1)—

(a) in sub-paragraph (a), for “on a construction site” substitute “at a workplace”;

(b) in sub-paragraph (b), for “on such a site” substitute “at such a workplace”.

(11) In paragraph (3), for “Paragraphs (7) and (8)” substitute “Paragraphs (6A) to (8)”.’.—(Oliver Heald.)

This new clause extends the scope of the exemption under Article 13 of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1990, currently limited to construction sites, so that turban-wearing Sikhs will be exempt from legal requirements to wear a safety helmet in a workplace of any kind (subject to exceptions set out in Article 13(6A) and (6B), as amended).

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Solicitor-General: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 72, page 1, line 1, leave out clause 1.

The Solicitor-General: New clause 2 deals with the wearing of safety helmets by the Sikh community in Northern Ireland. Its purpose is to extend the provision in the Bill to Sikhs in Northern Ireland. We discussed the issue in Committee and it was hoped that it would be possible to introduce such a measure. Article 13 of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1990 exempts turban-wearing Sikhs from legal requirements to wear a safety helmet while on a construction site. It also protects employers from liability should a Sikh suffer injuries as a consequence of choosing not to wear a helmet. The new clause extends the scope of the exemption to all workplaces, subject to certain very narrow exclusions, and extends the limited liability provisions associated with the exemption for other persons, such as employers.

The exemption in the 1990 order was limited to construction sites because, at the time, only workers in the construction industry were mandated to wear safety helmets. Legislative requirements regarding the wearing of safety helmets have since developed and now extend to a number of other industries in which a risk assessment identifies the need for specialist head protection.

There are certain jobs and industries in which the wearing of a turban may come into conflict with legislative requirements regarding the wearing of safety helmets or other coverings. Employers in non-construction sectors must therefore balance their obligation to protect the health and safety of their employees against their duty not to discriminate against a turban-wearing Sikh employee on the grounds of religion or race.

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Philip Davies: Surely one of the cornerstones of British law is that everybody is equal in the face of it. Either people should have to wear helmets for safety reasons or they should not. If a Sikh can decide not to wear a safety helmet on religious grounds, why cannot other workers decide not to wear them on grounds that they choose for themselves? Why should we have different laws for different people in this country? Many people find that troubling and offensive.

The Solicitor-General: An important history and a religious ethic applicable only to Sikhs are involved in this matter. It is a religious tenet for a Sikh male to wear a turban—that is not true of other religions. It is therefore a special circumstance. While addressing that, I should say what a great contribution the Sikh community makes in our country. Sikhs should be free to practise their religion and that central tenet of it. In certain circumstances, it would be wrong to allow a person not to wear their helmet because of the extreme danger involved—for example, when a fireman goes into a burning building. The circumstances where this provision cannot be followed are very narrow.

3 pm

Members of the Sikh community in Britain have faced disciplinary hearings and dismissal for refusing to wear head protection and others have been unable to follow their chosen profession. An amendment to the equivalent legislation for Great Britain has already been added to the Bill in Committee. The new clause is considered necessary and sensible to provide consistency across the UK and to allow Sikhs in Northern Ireland to be on a fair and equal footing when seeking employment in various industry sectors. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) would accept that it is right to have consistency across the UK on an issue of such religious importance.

It may be convenient if I now turn to the Opposition amendment to clause 1, amendment 72, unless, seeing Mr Speaker in the Chair, this is a moment where there is to be a break in proceedings.

Mr Speaker: It is very generous of the Minister to offer the opportunity of a break in the proceedings. It would be churlish of me turn down his offer.

The Solicitor-General: Knowing that the House wants to know the answer, I give way. [Laughter.]

Mr Speaker: We are grateful to the Minister, particularly for his sensitivity to the sensibilities of colleagues.

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Speaker’s Statement

Mr Speaker: I will now announce the result of the ballot held today for the election of a new Chair of the Select Committee on Defence: 479 votes were cast, with one spoilt ballot paper. The counting went to seven stages and 438 valid votes were cast in that round, excluding those ballot papers whose preferences had been exhausted. The quota to be reached was therefore 220 votes. Mr Rory Stewart was elected Chair, with 226 votes. The other candidate in that round was Dr Julian Lewis, who received 212 votes. Rory Stewart will take up his post immediately.

May I be the first, on behalf of all colleagues in the House, warmly to congratulate the hon. Gentleman? I am sure I speak for all colleagues when I thank all the other candidates who took part in the election. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] The results of the count under the alternative vote system will be made available as soon as possible in the Vote Office and published on both the intranet and the internet for public viewing.

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to say a huge thank you. It has been an enormous privilege to stand alongside colleagues who have approached this in such a collegiate and kind fashion. I have so much to learn from them. I am a very young and inexperienced new Member and this is a very great honour. Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. May I take this opportunity, perhaps on behalf of all of my colleagues, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) on his great success and undertake, as far as I can on behalf of those of us who are members of the Committee, to serve loyally behind him in the months that lie ahead? I thank the Clerks of the House, who carried out the election with absolutely immaculate efficiency.

Mr Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman. His remarks are typically gracious and I think will be acknowledged by the House. If there are no further colleagues wishing to detain the House—they are very welcome to do so in exceptional circumstances, but if they do not choose to do so it is best that we move on. I thank the Minister, who is always sensitive to the atmosphere in the House.

Mr Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con) rose—

Mr Speaker: Mr Brazier cannot contain himself.

Mr Brazier: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you have made the generous offer, Mr Speaker, it falls to those of us who are sitting members of the Committee and competitors to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) on a remarkable victory and say how much we will enjoy serving under him.

Mr Speaker: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on those remarks.

14 May 2014 : Column 807

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. It would be a shame not to join the party. I can only thank all those who supported me, congratulate the winner, commiserate with the other hon. Members who stood and say that I am very sorry for whoever it was who hoped to replace me on the Intelligence and Security Committee—[Laughter.] They will have to wait a little longer.

Mr Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman. With that, I think we should now return to the business of the House. I call the Minister, Oliver Heald, to continue his oration.

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Deregulation Bill

Proceedings resumed.

The Solicitor-General: I echo the good wishes to my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) and commiserate with the worthy runners up.

On the Opposition’s amendment 72 to clause 1, the effect of clause 1 is to exempt self-employed persons from health and safety law, except those on a prescribed list of activities, which is to be laid in regulations.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I believe that a draft list was given to Members in Committee. I tried to obtain it in the Library, but was told that it is not available until the consultation starts. Would it be possible to at least have a copy of what was given to the Committee?

The Solicitor-General: Yes, I am sure that that would be possible. I am looking to the Box and to my Parliamentary Private Secretary sitting behind me to see whether that can be achieved. A list was certainly provided. It is not definitive. It was produced on the basis that regulations would be produced and in place by the time of Royal Assent, that there would be proper consultation, and that the Health and Safety Executive would be involved. The idea is that the House has an opportunity to see them and that there is proper consultation on them.

The Government believe that we should reduce the number of administrative hoops that self-employed people have to jump through to free them up to continue to do their jobs unhindered and to continue to contribute to the UK’s economic growth. Currently, section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 imposes a duty on every self-employed person to have regard to, and protect against, the risks that their undertaking creates both to themselves and others, regardless of the type of activity they are undertaking.

Toby Perkins: Will the Minister expand on what the hoops are that self-employed people will no longer have to jump through? In practical terms, for any self-employed person who has the time or inclination to watch the debate, what is it that they will no longer have to do that they would previously have found so burdensome and obstructive to their responsibilities?

The Solicitor-General: I will come on to that in a moment. Let me just say, for the benefit of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), that the prescribed list of undertakings has been compiled to include high hazard industries or activities. They will be prescribed if one of four criteria is met: where there are high numbers of self-employed people in a particular industry with high rates of injuries or fatalities, for example agriculture; where there is significant risk to members of the public, for example fairgrounds; where there is potential for mass fatalities from, for example, explosives, fireworks and so on; and where there is a European obligation to retain the general duty on self-employed persons, for example in construction, where there is a Council directive imposing duties on the self-employed. That is the nature of the way the list is being compiled.

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In answer to the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins), at the moment, a self-employed accountant or an author working at home would be under a duty to carry out a risk assessment. He said in Committee that that would be a quick and easy thing to do, but the point is that every self-employed person in the country—we are talking about millions of people—has that duty. The perception that they have an onerous burden on them was identified by Professor Löfstedt at King’s College, the leading expert in risk assessment, who was asked to examine this for the Government. The amendment seeks to limit the number of self-employed persons covered by section 3(2) of the 1974 Act. The change would mean that only self-employed persons who conduct an undertaking of a prescribed description would be covered by the duty. That is what the regulations will prescribe.

The change has been proposed as a result of the recommendations of Professor Ragnar Löfstedt in his report, “Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety legislation”, which was published in 2011. He recommended that self-employed persons be exempt from health and safety law where they pose no potential risk of harm to others through their work activity.

“Prescribed” is defined by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to mean prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State. This clause therefore enables the Secretary of State to make regulations for the purposes of bringing self-employed persons within the scope of section 3(2), where their undertaking poses a significant risk of harm. Committee members will have seen a list of prescribed undertakings, which will be subject to public consultation and parliamentary procedure. The list is designed to strike a careful balance between the need to free self-employed people from unnecessary burdens while still providing the important protections to those who need them. The clause was debated in Committee, and the Committee voted for it. I thus urge the hon. Member for Chesterfield and his colleagues not to press the amendment and I urge Members to accept Government new clause 2.

Toby Perkins: I am pleased to speak to new clause 2 and to support amendment 72, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) and me. I start by declaring my interest as a member of Unite the Union, which has made representations on this issue, and by expressing my gratitude for the opportunity to discuss these amendments. We are grateful to the Government and others who supported our demand for proper time to debate the important health and safety aspects of the Bill. We felt that the original programme motion might well have denied Members that opportunity.

Let me respond first to the Minister’s comments about new clause 2. Labour Members warmly welcome the intention to allow Sikhs to wear turbans in place of head protection in all workplaces. Making such a change is important to our Sikh communities and for our country as a whole. I am pleased that the Minister was able to announce the extension of the exemption to Northern Ireland. That will be pleasing to the Sikh community in Northern Ireland and throughout Great Britain. The turban is not only the most visual part of a Sikh’s faith, but a proud part of our island story. We

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want the contribution of Sikhs to be visibly demonstrated in workplaces across the country. The Minister was absolutely right to speak warmly of the contribution that Sikhs have made to Britain. The success of this approach was seen in 2012 when Guardsman Jatinderpal Bhullar became the first turban wearer on guard duty outside Buckingham palace.

Despite our broad and deep support, we feel that the new clause could be clarified, so let me make a couple of suggestions for the Minister to consider as further improvements. First, on the blanket exclusion for emergency response services and military personnel, we believe that each case should be considered according to its individual merit. What further steps can the Minister take on that? The pace of technological change in the future will never be as slow as it is today—amazing though that may seem to us now—so it would be prudent to keep the mechanisms for making such amendments as flexible and responsive as possible. Why has the Minister not opted to have exclusions set outside the primary legislation as a statutory instrument simply to allow changes to the law to move with the time?

The Solicitor-General: The exclusion does not amount to a blanket exemption. It applies only in hazardous operational situations in which the wearing of a safety helmet is considered necessary. That means that all other means of protecting the Sikh must be considered and rejected before that legal requirement would kick in. It is based on circumstances specific to the particular Sikh, and only a very hazardous situation would require this to happen.

Toby Perkins: The Minister may not have understood what I was talking about or I may not have understood what he was talking about. I believe that there is a blanket exemption to the exclusion with respect to emergency response services and military personnel.

3.15 pm

The Solicitor-General: The exemption applies to the emergency services and the armed forces, but it is not a blanket one. It applies only in hazardous operational situations in which the wearing of the helmet is necessary. The narrow circumstances about a particular Sikh are looked at, and then the decision is made. The aim is that it should apply only in such circumstances as the burning building that I mentioned earlier.

Toby Perkins: I am grateful for that clarification. Will the Minister clarify the definition of “workplace”, as concerns have been raised that the term could be ambiguous and confusing? Could he offer some clarification and perhaps tighten up the definition and the language more generally? For example, would a Sikh working within a vehicle be considered to be working in a workplace?

James Duddridge rose—

Toby Perkins: I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman and then allow the Minister to respond.

James Duddridge: I am a little confused. If I read it correctly, new clause 2 relates purely to Northern Ireland and replicates what we have already discussed in Committee

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in respect of Great Britain. Will the shadow Minister confirm that point, as well as the Minister who seems to want to leap to his feet? I am concerned about whether we are looking at the general principles that apply to Great Britain or whether the Northern Ireland rules are different. If they are, why is that the case?

Toby Perkins: That is an interesting point. It is important, of course, to get clarity for Sikhs in Northern Ireland but also for Sikhs across Britain. The Minister spoke more broadly, which is important.

It has been brought to our attention that one interpretation of section 12 of the Employment Act 1989 could have the effect of permitting an employer to use the defence of having a legitimate aim when forcing a Sikh employee to wear a safety helmet in the workplace. This could undermine the new clause’s intention in a similar way to the definition of a workplace. I would be grateful if the Minister responded to that point in his summing up. I hope that the Minister will listen to and engage with those concerns. All Members—possibly with one exception—want to see this important change delivered, so I hope we can work together on a cross-party basis to achieve it.

Just as it is important to update and clarify legislation on behalf of Sikh workers, so it is important constantly to review all regulations to ensure that there are no unnecessary burdens that undermine growth. We fear, however, that little of that will be achieved in this wide-ranging—albeit limited in its positive effect—Bill. Fundamental questions need to be answered about the kind of economy and the kind of workplaces that Britain should have now and in the future.

We sometimes hear voices on the right of the political spectrum arguing that health and safety has gone mad and too far in Britain. Labour Members, however, are proud that Britain was a safer place in which to work at the end of the last Government than it had ever been before. We were proud, too, that we delivered the first Olympics in history without a single death occurring during its construction. In the last 20 years, there has been a clear downward trend in the number of fatal injuries in the workplace. In 1993-94, 300 people were killed at work; in 2012-13, that number had fallen to 148. It is proof that strong health and safety legislation, advice and guidance make a difference. When almost 150 people a year still set out for work one morning and never return home, there cannot be any cause whatever for complacency on health and safety.

Interestingly, in corresponding on Twitter with my constituents and others about the fact that we would debate health and safety legislation today, I received a response from a constituent in Derbyshire. He said, “I bet you’re not going to mention Europe when you get into that debate, because a lot of our health and safety legislation has come from Europe and we should be out of Europe so that we can get rid of all this health and safety legislation.” When I looked at his profile on Twitter, I found out that he had recently joined UKIP—so he is in the right place, at least. It is interesting that, at a time when 150 people a year are still dying at work, we should hear voices on the right saying that we need to get out of Europe so that we can get rid of all these

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health and safety rights and, presumably, increase the number of people who die at work. That was quite a revealing contribution.

Kelvin Hopkins rose—

Toby Perkins: Now we shall hear from someone who has far more responsible views on health and safety in general, although his views on Europe may be different from mine.

Kelvin Hopkins: It is a matter of considerable pride to me that the TUC drove forward the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 as part of a deal with the Government on pay. I think that that is one of the greatest pieces of legislation passed by a Labour Government this century—I mean last century.

Toby Perkins: I share my hon. Friend’s tremendous pride in the Act, and he is right to observe that very significant steps were taken in the 1970s. It should also be acknowledged that further steps were taken during the 13 years of Labour government through consultation and work with colleagues in Europe, and that Europe is a much safer workplace for it.

Back in 1993-94, 20 years ago, self-employed workers accounted for a sixth of all workplace deaths. In 2012-13, they accounted for a third of such deaths. In other words, the self-employed are twice as large a proportion of all those who die at work now as they were 20 years ago. If the Government are serious about driving down workplace deaths, reducing health and safety requirements for the self-employed seems a pretty odd way to start.

A few years ago funds for the Health and Safety Executive were cut by 35% in a single year, which has led to fewer inspections and the issuing of improvement notices. The present Government slowed the progress that we had been making on health and safety. However, we entirely reject the idea that the fact that Labour made that progress means that we favoured excessive regulation. Indeed, we are glad that the important work of the Better Regulation Commission—which was formed as part of the last Government’s commitment to deregulation, and which has played an important part in removing unnecessary burdens and ensuring that more are not unintentionally created when new regulations are introduced—has continued under the present Government.

The House of Commons Library estimates that businesses benefited to the tune of £3 billion a year as a result of the various deregulatory measures introduced by the last Government. A comparison between that scale of savings and this pygmy of a Bill sends a clear message about who was serious about backing business. However, a sensible approach to regulation is about proportionality, consistency and clarity, and I object in the strongest possible terms to the idea that making workers less safe or less well off is being done in the name of small businesses.

This Tory-led Government clearly have a view of the type of workplace that they want Britain to be. The Tory vision of the working Britain of the future is of a place in which everyone’s position and rights are insecure and enfeebled employees live in constant fear of losing their jobs, with low security, low wages and zero hours:

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an easy-in, easy-out workplace. The Tories think that a workplace that is engaged in a race to the bottom makes for a competitive economy.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Is there not also a danger that if legislation removes health and safety cover from self-employed people, employers will have an incentive to give employees a bogus status of self-employment, regardless of whether that is appropriate?

Toby Perkins: A substantial part of my speech will deal with precisely that point, because I think it represents perhaps the most fundamental flaw in the Bill. When the Minister presented his idea, he was probably told that it was good news that authors would no longer be suing themselves because their chairs were the wrong height. However, the real impact of the Bill is exactly as my hon. Friend has described it.

When people ask the Government what they will do about zero hours and the exploitation of workers, the Government misunderstand the question. The easy sacking of workers and the reduction in their rights is not an accident of Tory policy; it is Tory policy. It is precisely what Tory Governments have always been about. Of course, this is not actually called a Tory Government, but it certainly feels pretty much like one. This is what Tory Governments have always done, and they should be honest about that, rather than claiming that they are acting in support of small businesses or in anyone else’s name.

I was a small business owner myself for five years before I entered Parliament, and I entirely reject the idea that impoverishing workers and stripping them of their rights was done in my name or at my request. That just shows how out of touch the Government are. It is very unfair of them to introduce measures such as this, and then claim that they are doing it in order to support small businesses. In fact, they are doing it because it is what Tory Governments always do.

As the Minister said, this idea originated in Professor Löfstedt’s report on health and safety regulations, which was published in 2011. We supported most of the report’s recommendations, but we think that the professor failed to understand the nature of the British labour market when he said that the rights of the self-employed in Britain were greater than those granted by some of our European competitors, and, in particular, failed to appreciate the huge growth in false self-employment in this country to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) referred.