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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I suppose I should declare a minor potential interest in this issue. I live in a street which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, knows very well. It faces a playing field which has a clubhouse. On occasions, though not very often, late-night discotheques take place and go on until four o'clock in the morning. That tends to happen on a Saturday night, not on Sunday. Since the clubhouse is being rebuilt, the use could possibly be extended to Sunday nights if that is requested. That is the extent of my interest.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, I am very sympathetic to the idea of deregulation and to the idea that there is no difference in this respect between Sunday and any other day. Having said that, I am also puzzled by the conflicting evidence put forward. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, read out part of a letter, which I also received, from the Consort House Residents Association. I am puzzled by the difficulty that association has and the assurances given by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, in his very courteous letter to me about the Bill following Second Reading in which he refers to the protection that exists. He refers to the powers of local authorities in respect of entertainments licensing and the powers that apply to licensing justices with respect to liquor licences.
If those powers work, why do those people have so much difficulty? It may well be that dancing on Sundays is a very special case on which to be raising a more general problem. But if that is the case, ought we not to consider the more general problem before we proceed, without amendment, to making this otherwise necessary change?
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I understand that our discussion now combines the Question, opposed by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that Clause 2 stand part and Amendment No. 1 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I shall therefore proceed on that basis.
When I represented Enfield on the Greater London Council, there was an absolutely unruly late-night music and dancing venue in my constituency. Licences were granted centrally from County Hall. Each year, and year after year, Enfield residents came in a busload to oppose renewal of the licence because their lives were hell. They never succeeded because the other side had very brilliant QCs who put up a marvellous case. It was only when the liquor licence was withdrawn as a result of the number of knifings and dangerous incidents that had taken place on the premises that the dancing became less attractive. Therefore I support the comment made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that if there is no liquor licence there will not be large numbers of people who are terribly keen to be there (unless drugs have replaced alcohol) dancing all night for nothing. Certainly in commercial terms it was the loss of the liquor licence that made the venue non-viable. Before that, people came there from all over London.
It is not just a question of premises. As a result of the Noise Act, which I introduced in this House, we can now deal with noisy premises if they are too bad. It is a question of street noise--people slamming car doors in the middle of the night, revving up engines, particularly if they have a motor bike or car without the correct muffler. Those people are never caught. Having woken you up, they are gone; and there you are, suffering a sleepless night.
With my medical hat on, I would say that one of the greatest causes of accidents at work is over-tiredness. Sunday night is the night before people start their working week. For that reason, putting aside entirely whether or not we introduce regulation, I consider Sunday to be rather different to other days. I like the fact that large stores close at six o'clock. I should not like the thought that something else started up after that.
Camden council explained this matter to me. We had arguments about whether or not shops in King's Cross should be able to stay open all night. A measure passed by both Houses means that they can stay open all night, and Camden residents are suffering as a result. We have to be very careful when throwing out all the regulations and protections which are desirable from the point of view of residents.
In the case I referred to in Enfield the premises were in a residential street and affected between 20 and 50 residences immediately adjoining them. But in other, more densely built-up areas in the centre of London many more people live in very close proximity. The effects would be even more adverse.
I have a letter from the executive director of the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association Ltd. (BEDA). He said that he enclosed a valuable counsel's opinion on a particular matter. Unfortunately that opinion was not enclosed and I am unable to respond to the arguments put forward.
At Second Reading my noble friend Lord Courtown said in winding up that he felt the debate had moved on. He went on to say that he now thought that there was fair agreement between local authorities and the Government on this issue. I do not know where he gets that idea. The local authorities that have approached me are certainly not saying that they are in agreement over this issue at all.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, says that those seeking the permissions have perhaps not taken on board people's concerns. My experience in this field is that they do not care about other people's concerns. They have only the vested interest in setting up such businesses. For those who live near to them it is impossible to say how many years it will be before the nuisance beside them can be stopped.
Local residents are faced with the fact that they are small voices and usually merely individuals, even when they protest in a group. As I said, a whole busload of residents opposed the licence in the case I mentioned. The skilful arguments advanced by expert QCs for the leisure industry can be very convincing. For us to pass this measure would be a very bad thing. I add my voice to those who are opposed to it, and to Clause 2 in particular.
Last week I had a very friendly meeting with officials of BEDA. They did not entirely convince me of the value of it; however, it was a very friendly and courteous time and the meeting was very informative. For instance, one problem that has clarified itself for me this afternoon, and which I discussed with them, is that two different approaches arise in relation to clubs that open. One relates to those situated in residential areas and the other to those situated in out-of-town shopping areas where there are no residents, or in inner cities, which are purely commercial enterprises, again with no residents living nearby. Like other speakers, I would have no problem from a nuisance point of view with clubs being open in areas where there are no residents. All our discussion has been on the basis of clubs opening in areas where there are residents. Many are situated in residential areas, although I am told by the officials that the large ones opening nowadays are nearly always in areas which are free from residents. But that does not help the large number--many hundreds--which are situated today in residential areas. Therefore, I asked them and they agreed to consider whether there was any way of trying to distinguish in this Bill between those clubs which are situated in residential areas from those which are not. If there were a way to clarify that, it seems to me that it would rule out many of the problems and we could allow only those to be opened on Sundays which were not in residential areas. But that is a problem for the future and not for this afternoon.
On Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed to the fact that there are officials around who consider the protection offered by local authorities and justices to be inadequate. Certainly, that came out very clearly in a letter from the Consort House Residents Association, saying just that. It adds also--I should like to comment on it--that the powers are insufficient nowadays for them on weekdays. Therefore they question why these powers would be effective on Sundays. To back up my noble friend's remarks, they ask why those who go to work on Mondays should be denied their one quiet night of the week. The loss of their one and only quiet night of the week, to be lost for ever, is to me a very telling argument.
Therefore, I feel that the protection offered by the law at present is inadequate. I very much hope that we can in some way tighten it up for the sake of the poor, suffering residents who now will lose their one night of peace in the week.
Lord Wilberforce: I too declare an interest as a resident in the Borough of Kensington, an even more minor interest than that of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, because we do not front a playing field and so far, I am happy to say, there is no place of entertainment existing in our street. To that extent I am disinterested. But, like other noble Lords, I am entirely in favour of leaving the borough, as all other boroughs, an attractive place for people to come to and in which to amuse themselves.
The principle of the Bill is not in dispute. Everybody wants people to have liberty of action. One can see the logicality of not making a distinction between dancing and other activities which have been liberalised.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, quoted very strong passages from the committee report chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, and its very strong conclusion based on the evidence that the proposal is unsatisfactory because it removes a necessary protection for residents. Perhaps in addition I may quote from paragraph 59, which he did not read out. It says:
Nevertheless the point was made and obviously it impressed the committee. It has been very clearly underlined by what has just been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes: in fact, even in busloads, the local residents have very little opportunity to stand up against the big guns which can be mounted by the interests involved.
I do not want to say any more other than that I am entirely in support of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, and other speakers. I hope very much that the Government in the later stages of the Bill see fit to allow to be introduced some greater protection for residents than is at present found in the Bill.
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