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A Noble Lord: No, he has not.

Lord Addington: My Lords, indeed my noble friend is here. Now I know why he has such a lean physique; he is able to resist that temptation!

My noble friend spoke about the effect of requiring licences for all those other activities. The noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, again emphasised the musical aspect. Unless we get the whole package right, we will have problems. The current system has proved to be a failure.

I can only endorse what was said about the alcopop culture. The fact that I was heading towards middle age at a rate of knots was confirmed to me, when I was threatened with a double Red Bull and vodka, after one of my last rugby matches for my local first team. I do not like Red Bull, but I like decent vodka, if it is served correctly. So, I said that I would have the vodka. I was presented with a lukewarm glass with a lukewarm fluid inside it. By then, I was just enough into my cups to raise the matter with the bar manager and tell him that vodka was supposed to be cold. I was given back the same glass with one watery ice-cube inside it. I realised that the drinking culture had moved on. Drinking is done not for the taste but so that people can get plastered. Even the idea that someone might like what he drinks is disappearing.

We must try to break the pattern through education and by removing the idea that people are under pressure to consume alcohol quickly. If we address that point—along with the points made by my noble friend Lady Walmsley—we stand a chance of breaking the cultural pattern. We will not do it overnight, and we must steel ourselves for the fact that, for a short time, things will get slightly worse when the changes

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come into effect. I am afraid that that may well happen, and we must be ready for it. However, I suggest that the evidence is on the side of the direction in which the Government are moving, provided that they do not get themselves into a position where the only people who can afford to obtain licences are large, chain firms pumping out music in an atmosphere which is designed for the binge-drinking culture.

8.14 p.m.

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by explaining my background in and out of the drinking world. My first involvement was at the time of the Erroll report when I was at a research company working on the national beer survey and for the Wine and Spirits Association. We had to predict what would happen and who would consume what.

We did not really predict anything because we failed to understand the likely socio-economic changes which would arise. However, we predicted the rise in the consumption of vodka, the decline in the consumption of sherry and port, the rise of cold beers and lager, but not consumption. We also had to produce the annual report from the Wine and Spirit Association to the Chancellor to prove that if the Government increased tax on alcohol the law of diminishing returns would set in.

We have forgotten about Carnaby Street. We remember traipsing around the 400 Club, the Cafe de Paris, the Blue Angel or, in my case up in the North East, selling asbestos-related products and going to working men's clubs. But we failed to see the change. That was a generation ago and every generation brings about a change. Is there a political change here? The Liberal Party think they might get into power and yet it has forgotten that the average age of voters is now 55.

We have forgotten, too, the change that has taken place with people getting married later, the emancipation of women and now the type of culture that relates not just to alcohol, but to music and events. I should explain that once, by accident, I was involved in pop promotions and big events. I was fascinated seeing 70,000 people at Wembley without any alcohol, having a great time. That group moved on to raves and music that I could never understand. Even worse, I was the only boy in any school I attended never to have been in the choir.

However, the change that has come about is fascinating. We are talking of the 16 to 32 year-old age group. They do not live at home. The women and men, perhaps unlike most bird species, are similar. They dress in the same way. There are no longer the dandies of Georgian England or the flashy young ladies I remember. They are more like the robins who look alike—the male robin gives the female a bit of food to eat—or the male kingfisher which grabs a fish, beats it on the head and offers it head-first to the female to attract her. Or even, more like the Liberals and not the black shag (I must be careful), they are like the great crested grebe, both male and female, which make signs and movements to each other before the female returns with a clicking noise and they "get off together".

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That age group of men or women—

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am confused. Which of those notions was ascribed to the Liberals?

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, it is a very effective bird which is one of the most powerful in its courting and seeks to make friends with everybody. I have that on great authority from some of the ornithologist Doorkeepers in your Lordships' House.

However, I believe that the socio-economic change referred to is not alcohol, entertainment or music, but a combination of those. The groups of people, whether they are two, three or four, or whether they are men or women, go off to a pub for a night out. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, pointed out, when closing time approaches they have one pint of beer for each hand and one for each foot. Later, probably a couple of shots of tequila sunrise appear. If it is hot and warm in the pub and cold outside, people stagger out and although they may have eaten before, they will go, as the Minister said, to a kebab bar and later off to a club.

They will not go to the working men's club, but to the music club where they will preen themselves and look as birds and cocks, or birds and blokes, to "pull" each other—it is not as vicious and nasty as it sounds—and make friends. It is a communal activity of drinking, and at roughly 2.30 a.m. the alcohol stops and the orange juice and water come out. The only continuation there is probably the weed of wisdom, ganja, hash, pot, spliffs or even stronger drugs which provide the little stimulant that keeps them going before they go out into the street and make their way home. Those of greater sophistication may go off to Smithfield to catch early pints of beer.

The question is: is there anything wrong in that? Is the concentration of alcohol in a short period dangerous? Probably it is. Is the impact of what happened in Scotland correct? I think it is. I believe that the Government have got the concept right but some of the details may be wrong. It is right that the issue should be raised in your Lordships' House because we have an average of 50 years drinking experience, during which time we have consumed over 2 million bottles of wine. The Commons has only 30 years experience of drinking and, therefore, having heard the Liberals' experience today, we are in the right place at the right time.

I now want to examine not only the socio-economic changes but the other changes in drinking habits. Here I must condemn the Government for their failure to reduce taxation on alcohol. As your Lordships know, every day 1 million pints cross the Channel. That is the equivalent of the consumption of 6,000 country pubs. We must look at those who do what is called "the milk run"; they go abroad to buy cigarettes and alcohol cheaply. I believe that we may hit some of that cross-Channel trade because extending drinking hours in public places may be helpful.

I should explain another interest. My family has been in the alcohol world, but I am a peasant farmer in France farming wine and benefiting from grants.

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However, I am concerned about the licensing system that is now proposed in this country, in particular private licensing. I do not want to suggest that illegal activities take place, but your Lordships should be aware that in considering the development of tourism in rural areas we must take into account people who run bed-and-breakfast or small lodging houses and who want to provide meals and alcohol for their guests.

The current arrangements are these—and Customs and Excise got a bit of a beating not so long ago. We all thought that we were allowed to bring in 90 litres of wine from abroad and then we were told that we could bring back any amount provided that it was for personal consumption. "Personal consumption" means that you do not sell it. Let us take the bed-and-breakfast house which apart from providing breakfast provides a farmhouse dinner. It might like to be able to offer a glass or bottle of wine to its guests, but it must be careful because it has no licence. There is nothing on the door declaring that Farmer X has a licence to sell alcohol.

Therefore, as at weddings and so forth, people running such a business bring wine duty-free or at reduced duty rates from France or wherever and give it away with a meal. They sell the meal but give the wine away and I do not believe that they are breaking the law. I ask the Government to examine the case of the small business and consider the granting of personal licences to people, whether on a farm or in a house, who are registered for bed and breakfast with three rooms or more, so that they may have the right to sell a glass of wine or liquor of some form.

I have enjoyed this debate. The Government did not get as good a reception from some people as I would have hoped because the concept of Second Reading is to think of the objectives and then to move on. I hope that we can improve the Bill by introducing amendments on a non-party basis.

I remind your Lordships that "alcohol" is an Arab word and that we are in the middle of Ramadan. The prophet did not say, "You should not drink alcohol". He said, "If you drink alcohol to excess, it will cause problems. Better not to drink it". The Bishops also have a lot to answer for because much of the best quality wine and alcohol in the world was originally produced by the Church.

8.23 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, when one is the 25th speaker in a Second Reading debate, one wonders how much juice there is left in the orange. When the Minister introduces the Bill, as she did earlier today, by saying that its objectives are to improve choice for consumers, to boost economic activity, to promote tourism, to increase deregulation and to protect children, one is inclined to think that if one merely added "and to encourage motherhood and apple pie" one would have a perfect Bill.

But of course it is more complicated than that. The Bill synthesises neatly the tension between New Labour and old Labour attitudes. New Labour

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concentrates on pretty packaging and nice messages well spun. But inside the package there is old Labour, which has a fascination with regulation and a fundamental belief that the authorities, whoever they may be, know best. The mean-minded—I am sorry to use that word to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh—proposal in the Bill to end the exclusion from licensing provision of two or fewer musicians, so ably described by my noble friend Lord Colwyn and the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, is a classic example of that dirigiste tendency. So there are many centralising tendencies in this Bill.

It seems likely that this Bill will follow some familiar patterns. We are beginning with a complex piece of legislation which has 200 clauses and eight schedules, a nice title and some nice objectives. This Bill reminds me of the Enterprise Bill, for example—and what a nice title that was! However, by the time that that legislation left your Lordships' House, it had grown much longer and even more complex, as I am sure that this Bill will. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said that this Bill's Explanatory Notes amount to 70 pages, I think, and that they are the longest that he has seen. The Explanatory Notes to the Enterprise Bill were 150 pages long. Ultimately, however, that was not an Enterprise Bill but a regulation of industry Bill. So fast did that legislation change that it tested even the legendary powers of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, to handle a fast-changing brief.

This Bill follows a familiar pattern in a second respect. As my noble friend Lady Buscombe said, this is only half a Bill because so much of its daily and detailed impact will be achieved through regulation, most of which has yet to see the light of day. We need to see that regulation if we are properly to scrutinise the Bill.

I fear that the Bill may follow the familiar pattern also in a third way. Judging from noble Lords' comments, I think that detailed examination of these proposals will reveal that they have not been fully thought through. Consequently, we can expect that many government amendments will be tabled. More than 800 government amendments were tabled at the Report stage of the Enterprise Bill. Although we can give the Government credit for trying to improve their legislation, the consequence of tabling late amendments is that those affected by the legislation have little opportunity to comment on the final proposals. So, however worthy this Bill's strategic objectives may be, much detailed work still needs to be done.

I begin by declaring an interest. I am a non-executive director of one of the UK's largest brewers. We operate, through tenants or managers, several hundred public houses which run the gamut from pubs in Westminster and in suburban and inner-urban areas to single pubs in villages. I therefore very much sympathise with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, about the "one size fits all" problem. Licensing provisions for pubs as different as these will be extremely difficult to devise centrally and extremely difficult to apply locally.

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Given the proposal to shift licensing from magistrates to local authorities, the key task will be to obtain a fair sample of public views, first in drawing up the statement of licensing policy required under Clause 5 and then in implementing it in the various proposals for licences. Local residents are, of course, entitled to have their views heard and respected. However, we have to ensure that a vocal minority which is perhaps making unreasonable demands does not drown out the less assertive majority. As has been said, NIMBY is alive and well and living in most parts of the country. The point is particularly true as regards the role played by individual councillors, who will now find themselves in the frontline as regards controversial licensing decisions.

We also have to address the issue of conflicts of interest within the local authority itself. Many, and perhaps most, local authorities run licensed premises themselves. They will therefore be judge and jury for their own premises. That, too, needs to be looked at extremely carefully.

I very much support the proposal to split licences for premises from licences for individuals; it seems an eminently sensible idea. As I understand it, however, the two types of licence are to be co-mingled. The procedure for applying for a premises licence under Clause 17, for example, requires the name of the premises supervisor as part of a premises licence application. That seems to destroy the clarity which the Bill had previously sought to achieve.

There is also concern about the ability of local authorities to react sufficiently rapidly and flexibly to their new responsibilities. The evidence to date from the issue of public entertainment licences, for which they have now been responsible for about 10 years, is not encouraging. Cumbersome procedures, slow responses and huge variability in fees charged have been all too frequent experiences. It is also not clear from the Bill whether the Government intend to encourage different scales and procedures for the off-trade—people having licences for the sale of alcohol to be consumed off the premises—and the on-trade. Clearly, those are two different types of function.

When local authorities become responsible for all premises licences and personal licences they will have to be ready to move speedily. With 70,000 public houses in the country, inevitably changes constantly take place. They take place because licensees want to leave, because licensees have to be removed due to unsatisfactory performance or, at its most sharp, change take place because licensees disappear. When the licensee does a bunk, the first that the owner or brewery know of it is when the bar staff or people seeking to make deliveries turn up in the morning and cannot gain access to the premises a matter of hours before the pub is due to open. That will require an extremely speedy reaction from the licensing authority.

There is always a downside risk to issuing a licence, whether for a premises or a person. We have to ensure that the Bill does not permit the local authority to make the eye of the needle too narrow. Of the 70,000

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public houses, about half are self-owned and operated. Such people are classic small businessmen. One can envisage such things as the "operating schedule" being used to act as a considerable deterrent to those people becoming involved in the trade.

Finally, there is the responsibility of the personal licence holder for the sale of alcohol to minors. That was a point picked up by several noble Lords, notably the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I stress that I am completely opposed to the sale of alcohol to minors, but I am not clear that we are not putting an unreasonable burden on the individual licence holder with the Bill as presently drafted.

Those of us who have teenage children, as I do, know of the dangers: first, as stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, the growth of sweet lemonade-based drinks spiked with spirits—alcopops—which are highly attractive to young people; and secondly, binge drinking, which is on the rise, although I do not believe that the change in licensing hours will affect binge drinking. Those are issues we must address.

However, those noble Lords with teenage children will know that personal identifications are easily available. They can be purchased on the Internet for probably less than 15. I continue to discourage my children from obtaining such IDs, pointing out that if they are caught it will most decidedly not make a useful addition to their curriculum vitae. But clearly false IDs are in wide circulation. The serious implication for personal licence holders of the offences described in Clauses 143 to 150 need to be looked at in the light of those kind of developments.

I conclude by stating that of course we want to boost tourism. People certainly do not visit this country for the weather. Of course we must protect our children and young people, and of course we all support a streamlined system for licensing, with clear lines of responsibility and rapid responses. So, I certainly support the principles behind the Bill, but whether the Bill can deliver those worthy objectives will be made clear only during our discussions in Committee.

8.33 p.m.

Lord Cobbold: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene briefly in the gap in this important debate. I shall not detain your Lordships for long.

The Bill is wide ranging in its coverage yet there appears to be no reference to entertainment licences covering large outdoor musical events. I declare an interest in having been involved in many such licensed events in the past. The Bill refers to temporary event notices, but those are limited in Clause 98(5) to a maximum of 500 persons. The figure of 500 is seemingly somewhat arbitrary. My question is whether the Bill is intended to cover large outdoor musical events, be they in open air stadia, on private land or in public parks. I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify that point.

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8.35 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, the noble Lord made a very brief intervention in the gap, which was extremely welcome.

I would like to welcome the Bill from these Benches. However, I do so after listening to many speeches which give rise to caveats to that welcome. It is a welcome that will be tested at Committee stage.

I start by declaring an interest. I own a pub—the Redesdale Arms on the A68 on the way to Northumberland. It is on the Jedburgh Road, about 12 miles before the Border. People call it the "First and Last". It is the last pub in England and the first before Scotland. Free advertising is also an expression of the interest being shown by a member of the all-party beer group.

Although the Bill concerns licensing reform, many noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Falkland, Lord Avebury and Lord Addington, have taken the opportunity to discuss the perils of the growing trend of alcohol abuse in British cultural life. That was brought home to me when I was listening to "Woman's Hour" on Monday morning. I shall not explain why I was listening to "Woman's Hour" on Monday morning, but during the programme a police sergeant explained why people go out on Friday and Saturday nights to drink and to get drunk.

She said that we have the longest working hours in Europe; that people cannot afford to buy their own houses and so tend to live at home. There is therefore a kind of enforced adolescence which means that, come the weekend, these people feel that they have worked hard, they have earned their money and they are going to enjoy the weekend. It is almost enforced enjoyment.

That perhaps explains the scenes described by many noble Lords of people going out with the pure and simple intention of getting as plastered as possible, with all the problems that that causes for the safety of the local community and the drinkers themselves, and the inherent problem of violence.

A night on the town is not intrinsically linked with violence, although there are problems in that area. A friend of mine worked in the A&E department of the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. He told me horrendous stories about the most common injury—split knuckles—which is caused by hitting people in the face. The people who do the punching cause a lot of problems for themselves. My friend said that this often happened in stress periods.

The real problem in Newcastle is the city centre and the big market, a traditional ancient centre where people drink vast amounts. I did so myself when I was a student. As my noble friend Lord Addington pointed out, in the past at drinking-up time people have tried to get as many beers down them as possible. This creates pressure on the services that have to deal with the results of throwing-out time in the kebab shop and taxi rank.

That is not to say that violence is a necessary part of an evening's entertainment. The views of the police are split over whether or not it is a good thing to try to

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stagger closing times—we shall have to deal with that issue—because there are not enough police to deal with the vast number of problems. The problems will not go away. Many noble Lords have said that changing the licensing hours will not change the associated problems of drink and violence, but it will stagger the times at which the police are called out to such incidents.

I should like to pick up on a number of the points raised by noble Lords. It would not be feasible in a short period of time to refer to all the issues which will be raised at Committee stage—it will be a long and arduous session—but there are a number of themes to which we will pay particular attention.

I should like to begin on a perhaps petulant note. Although the Bill, which was referred to in the Queen's Speech a short time ago, has come to us very quickly, it was noticeable that the Bill itself was not in the Printed Paper Office immediately and that the Explanatory Notes were available only last Thursday. I say this as someone who has worked hard over the weekend to try to come to terms with all the issues in the Bill. It was not made as easy as it might have been.

Furthermore, the guidance that will make up such a large part of the Bill's provision is still unavailable. Copies of it have been passed to me by interest groups, but I have found it impossible to get hold of. I know that these are only draft guidance notes, but it seems outrageous that at Second Reading we have had to acquire knowledge of large parts of the Bill by means of handouts from interested parties rather than being provided with the notes as parliamentarians.

I have one major question for the Minister. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will be able to answer it when he replies to the debate on her behalf. When will the guidance notes be available, and will they be available in their final form before the Bill completes its passage through this House? It seems to be a growing trend that guidance notes, which are the means of policing a Bill, are not available until after the legislation has reached the statute book. The draft guidance notes that I have seen are extremely good. However, the White Paper was an extremely good document but the Bill does not reflect its aspirations.

I turn to issues of particular concern. The first relates to personal licences. When I read the Bill, I was surprised at the complications that are envisaged in achieving a personal licence. The idea of the personal licence is a very good one. In conjunction with the premises licence it has been part of our party policy and we support the proposal. However, I have difficulty with the fact that local authorities are meant to organise the issuing of personal licences. It would be far more sensible for a central authority to issue the licences, in the same way as the DVLA issues driving licences. They could then be administrated centrally—we are dealing with an industry that is spread throughout the country.

I know of a case in point, where a pub manager working in Newcastle came to London. Under the new system of the personal licence, a licence would be issued to that person in Newcastle and for the 10-year

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duration of the licence he would have to deal with the Newcastle authorities whenever he wanted to move or when an issue arose in regard to the licence. That seems unfortunate.

This will also impose a huge burden on local authorities. One of the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is that—laudably—the Bill is attempting to cut red tape, bureaucracy and cost. One of the ways of cutting cost would be to take this enormous burden away from local authorities. I am particularly concerned because, having asked local authorities about this, none seems to have a set system under which the personal licences would be distributed. Which computer system would be used? It would make sense that the systems should be compatible, but experience of many other schemes shows that that is rarely the case.

Secondly, premises licences seemed an excellent idea when they were proposed in the White Paper. However, the Bill makes it clear that supervisors will have to be adjoined to the premises licence, which takes away some of the more fluid aspects of that licence and makes the situation difficult—especially when, say, a new manager comes along, having had his licence issued in a different local authority area, and has to go through all the different paperwork. This is an important point, as the Bill specifies that 48 hours will be given for objections to be made. There could be a great deal of bureaucratic difficulty and to-ing and fro-ing in relation to the licences, which will add to the costs for publicans and pub groups.

The third issue—raised by many noble Lords—relates to the public entertainments licence. The noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, made reference to it. I know that he has done a great deal of work on the matter—so much so that a year ago he was thrown out of the Red Lion for trying to blow his own trumpet! He was the third musician from this House to try to do so, the others being the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, who is not presently in his place.

Many issues arise in regard to the provision of live music. I am unable to touch on all of them now. It is strange that the Government are taking such a hard line against unamplified music. I understand the difficulty with amplified music. This seems to be a real issue, which could result in cultural destruction. Much oral tradition is passed down through folk singers in pubs. The imposition of those stringent requirements could be a difficulty.

The Minister will say that public entertainment licences can be added to any pub as part of the variation. I have a question for him: to what extent will a pub have the right to have one or two musicians playing unamplified music regularly? Will that right be granted automatically? If not, contrary to the Government's proposition that this will be a great opportunity, it will be nothing of the sort. The Bill might take away many organisations' ability to provide live music, even though in many cases the live music provided is covered by all the noise and nuisance statutes to which any pub is subject. That seems very

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unfair. The word "puritanical" has been used. The Government are being slightly puritanical; however, I am loath to use that word because the noble Earl, Lord Russell, is not in his place to correct me.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, raised the issue of fees in respect of local authorities. I have seen some of the issues arising out of public entertainment licences and the abuse of those licences by certain councils—Camden, Westminster and Islington, to name but a few. It is ironic that it is those councils who are lobbying about fees and about the loss of public entertainment licences. The Government are right to set fees centrally, as long as they are not too arduous for small businesses and are not geared to suit larger premises. A major problem will be a one-size-fits-all system, because the fee for a large pub in London will differ from that for a rural pub.

My noble friend Lady Harris talked about police powers. I was interested to hear that police opinion is split. That seems to reflect many of the briefings we have received. The police, especially the Association of Chief Police Officers, seem to welcome the Bill, but with big caveats. I support the Government's position, as expressed in the introduction to the Bill, on the closure of problem premises for 24 hours. That seems a very eminent and sensible solution. The Bill gives the police far more powers, perhaps more than they need, to deal with problem premises. However, the 24-hour closure of a pub is an excellent and non-bureaucratic way of dealing with a localised, immediate problem.

Many noble Lords raised the issue of whether councils or magistrates should be the licensing authority. I was surprised by the view that magistrates are to be removed because I thought the provision that magistrates will be used as the court of appeal was excellent. I was concerned that the court of appeal would be within the local authorities. Moving the appeals system from local authorities is an eminently sensible decision.

I particularly support the views on community events that the right reverend Prelate expressed. This Bill seems to incorporate much smaller community events, an issue that we will return to in Committee.

I have taken far too much of the House's time at this time of night. I shall finish on one aspect that perhaps has been overlooked—publicans. Over the weekend I sat down with my local publican in The Albert in Primrose Hill—that is obviously going to be worth a free beer—and discussed with him some of the provisions of the Bill. The best people to talk to are often those who have to deal with the regulations that will be involved. Everybody has talked about the stress areas of the big market or Soho. That is obviously important, but many of the provisions will not affect the local pub. Local pubs will obviously make some provision for later times, maybe on a Saturday night, but I do not believe that many of them will stay open until three or four o'clock in the morning.

Pubs have done excellent work in addressing one of the major problems that happens in city centres—the problem of people going out to get drunk—because it is culturally unacceptable to get drunk in your local

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pub and people are stopped from doing so. That is often due to the skilful way in which publicans manage the people who use their premises as the cultural hub of their community.

I welcome the Bill, but I very much hope that some of the over-bureaucratic aspects that seem to have been added since the White Paper can be sorted out in Committee.

8.51 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry that you have got me instead of my noble friend Lady Blackstone, but as you will have gathered, her voice collapsed today. We managed to send her home at about half-past seven. I hope she is taking appropriate measures. I also apologise for the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, apparently did not have access to the Bill or the Explanatory Notes, as he was supposed to have. It was read a first time on 14th November. I understand it was put in for printing on the same night and I am told that the Explanatory Notes were available on Monday 18th November. I apologise if they did not reach him. I can only say that since I did not know that I was going to have anything to do with the Bill until a quarter to one today, he has had a lot more opportunity to see the Bill than I have.

I could sum up the debate with the words, "Yes, but". Everybody who has spoken has said that we must make some fundamental changes to a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation, with legislation going back to the 18th century, and almost certainly a lot further back. However, there are serious reservations on all sides about certain aspects of the Bill—perhaps not reservations about the provisions, but concerns about what might or might not be in the Bill. Is the Bill really deregulatory or has it become too bureaucratic? Is adequate attention being given to the needs of local residents? Is there adequate provision to protect children? What about the transfer of licensing powers from licensing magistrates to local authorities? Is that a centralising move, as some have said, or is it a truly decentralising move? If it is decentralising, is it likely to cause problems of conflict of interest? Is there enough opportunity for local conditions to be applied?

A more fundamental issue, on which there was no consensus as far as I could tell, is the likely effect on drinking habits. By opening things up, is the Bill likely to discourage binge drinking? Some people think the opposite.

Various specialist issues, such as music and licensing for churches and village halls and so on, were also raised. I have 20 minutes, after which I will sit down, because those are our new rules. However, that means that I shall have to write to an awful lot of people.

I want to say something about the scope of the Bill before I start on as many of the issues that have been raised as I can. First, judging from some of the speeches, one would think that the Bill was making 24-hour licensing compulsory. Of course it is not. People will apply for whatever licence they want. If they want to close at ten o'clock in the country or

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anywhere else they can do so. If they want to apply for a licence to close later, they can do so. I do not think that this is in any sense what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, called a "one size fits all" Bill. It is designed to enable people to apply for the licensing hours that they want. Secondly—


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