Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Luke moved Amendment No. 32:

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 33 to 35 and 37 to 60 . Of this long list, the amendments at page 112, line 11, and page 112, line 17, are the substantial ones. The remainder are consequential.

Schedule 2 provides a novel approach as regards the type of refreshment to be provided for an establishment to come within the night cafe licensing regime. Under current legislation, at least in London, an establishment would fall within the regime if it provided "public refreshment". Different local

12 Dec 2002 : Column 419

authorities take different views as to what is meant by refreshment. Some take the view that "public refreshment" means "immediately consumable refreshment"; namely, any type of refreshment that can be enjoyed immediately without the need to prepare it at home. The schedule provides that the regime will apply to premises where "hot food" and "hot drink" are served.

One concern is that, in order to avoid the licensing regime, premises will adapt so as to serve only cold refreshment. That may result in a proliferation of juice bars, which would be perfectly entitled to serve cold drinks and sandwiches without the need for a licence. Given that the whole purpose of the licensing regime is to ensure that licensing authorities can place proper controls over the location of late night premises and place conditions on their operation to ensure that residents are not disturbed, it is curious that the legislation provides such an obvious loophole. There is no reason to suspect that somebody drinking cold orange juice and eating a sandwich could cause less or more disturbance than someone drinking a coffee or eating a burger.

The amendments would introduce into the regime premises in which immediately consumable food was served. A definition of "immediately consumable" is provided. Food is immediately consumable unless it has to be heated, or prepared in some other way, before consumption, or if it requires a device such as a tin opener or corkscrew to be able to open the package. The amendments would bring into the scope of the Bill not only cafes but also shops selling crisps and cold drinks.

I turn to Amendment No. 45. Currently, premises that hold a cinema licence are not required to register as night cafes—in London, again—or suppliers of late night refreshments elsewhere, even when cinemas provide hot drinks or hot food, such as popcorn. My experience of popcorn is that it is usually no more than warm. It is understood that the purpose of the Bill is not to extend licensable activities unnecessarily. No reason has been given as to why cinemas should be required to register another activity under the Bill with the probability that new conditions of licence would be imposed. I beg to move.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I support my noble friend on this amendment. I see what he is driving at and understand the illogicalities that he is addressing. However, I want to extend the debate beyond the London-centric implications of the amendments. I particularly want to draw the Minister's attention to the concerns of the Forecourt Stores Association and discover from her the implications of the Bill, and these amendments, for that trade. I refer to small garages, perhaps on trunk roads, that are open throughout the night and which perhaps offer food as well as an opportunity to fill up the car with petrol. I shall give an example. I set out to drive and fill up with petrol at a garage that sells coffee from a machine. I buy a cup of coffee when I pay for my petrol. In those circumstances, the owner of the forecourt shop—of the premises—will presumably need a licence because

12 Dec 2002 : Column 420

under paragraph 3(1)(a), I have been "admitted to the premises" and I do not fall within the exemptions in paragraph 3(2). Suppose, for security reasons, that the owner decides to lock the garage at night, and drink machines are placed in the forecourt. In those circumstances, as I read the Bill, I can buy Coca-Cola, which is non-alcoholic and cold, but not coffee because it is hot, and has to be licensed because it involves the supply,

    "of hot food or hot drink on or from [the] premises".

I do not see the logic of that distinction. If the regulations apply to small forecourt garage shops outside London on trunk roads—I seek the Minister's guidance on that point—they will be very damaging. Petrol retailers are already heavily regulated in terms of the safety of the sale of petrol. They provide an important centre for village life—I do not suggest that they do so at 2 a.m. but they do so the rest of the time. We should try to find ways of making their lives easier rather than harder. I have tabled relevant amendments to Clause 173.

How will the position of those garages, which offer incidental food and drink—hot and cold—change under the provisions of the Bill, and will the fact that they are heavily regulated be taken into account? In the mean time, I entirely support my noble friend Lord Luke in his attempt to remove the distinction between cold and hot food or beverages.

6 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I declare an interest as a former Member of Parliament for the Cities of London and Westminster. I am delighted to have given the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, the maiden chance to support the Government during this Bill's Committee stage. I exercised discretion in that regard when the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was praying in aid the noise at Wembley and Glastonbury. I could have supported him in that argument by referring to Hyde Park on behalf of my former constituents living around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I erred in favour of discretion because the concerts there are a matter of controversy with the Royal Parks Agency and even the DCMS. I thought that such a reference would be unfriendly to the Government's overall position and therefore counterproductive. However, I am delighted to have given the noble Lord that opportunity.

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 36, which stands in my name. I recognise that it is possible that my amendment may not be self-explanatory to Members of the Committee; it is just possible that it is not even self-explanatory to the Minister. One of the main problems experienced in certain parts of London is the smoking of tobacco in Shisha pipes late at night.

To expand on that, those pipes are used by Muslims at—to give a specific example—open-air cafes along the Edgware Road, where they are serviced by waiters. Because that provision of supplies is not included in the current definitions relating to late-night refreshment, they are a potential nuisance to residents outside ordinary licensing hours. If the licence of a cafe

12 Dec 2002 : Column 421

finishes at 1 a.m., the smoking of these pipes and their servicing by waiters can continue long into the small hours with, to the annoyance of other residents, all the consequential noise of extended activity.

I understand that a local government (miscellaneous powers) Bill is to be introduced in the other place to extend the definition to include such pipes, but that is the reason that I moved the amendment. The amendment is intended to give the power, if necessary, to a local authority to regulate this activity.

Baroness Blackstone: All premises where licensable activities are carried on will be required to operate in a way which is consistent with the four licensing objectives—that is, ensuring public safety, the prevention of crime and disorder, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. As we know, people who have consumed excessive alcohol often seek to obtain hot food or hot drink from take-aways, fast-food outlets and late-night cafes. That can lead to disorder and disturbance and these premises should be regulated. It is therefore logical to include such establishments in the licensing regime between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Amendments Nos. 32 to 35, 37 to 44 and 46 to 60 seek to extend the licensing regime to include any premises, including late-opening or all-night supermarkets, which sell any food or drink products for immediate consumption between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Any move to bring into the regime late-night supermarkets and grocery shops selling food that can be readily eaten would be immensely bureaucratic and simply cannot be justified. Again, if the noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench is in favour of trying to maintain a deregulatory regime, then I do not believe that we can justify going down this path. It would include every premises selling bread and milk late at night. I am a little surprised that the Opposition Benches would be happy to present such a policy to the retail industry, and I wonder whether they have thought through the enormous implications. I know that the retail industry would greatly object to it.

I turn to Amendment No. 36. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, seeks to extend the definition of "late-night refreshment" to provide for the inclusion of tobacco sales. Again, I do not believe that there is a great deal of justification for the inclusion of such sales. I have not heard of premises which sell tobacco attracting drunken crowds and giving rise to disorder and disturbance. We should impose restrictions only where there is a very clear necessity to do so.

The point of licensing night cafes is to deal with premises where people behave in a drunk or disorderly fashion. Muslims do not usually consume alcohol. Therefore, I cannot see that we need to extend the regime in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, suggests.

12 Dec 2002 : Column 422

I wonder whether we could deal with the issue of the prohibition of alcohol sales at service areas, garages and so on when we reach the point where the Bill deals with that. I believe that amendments will be, and already have been, tabled on Clause 173.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page