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Lord Redesdale: This issue is of much concern to many local authorities, especially those that have lobbied Members of the Committee. However, I do not support the amendment because there is a slight difficulty in saying to what extent the polluter pays principle would be at work in this regard. The licensee and the licensed premises are often not responsible for the damage to the environment and the local area; that

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is caused by the patrons of the premises. Litter is inherently connected with late-night fast-food outlets. Will further provisions apply to them and the littering for which they are responsible?

Lord Avebury: My noble friend rightly refers to fast-food restaurants. That was a source of enormous nuisance in the London Borough of Westminster, which the noble Baroness mentioned. She will remember that when Councillor Simon Milton made his presentation he emphasised the enormous quantities of rubbish that are littered on streets by people coming out of fast-food restaurants.

Fortunately, that has been ameliorated by police action in closing down some of the establishments that operated until well after the closing time of pubs and clubs. Formerly, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's and so on remained open until four o'clock and people came out of drinking establishments, walked over to the fast-food outlet, got a hamburger and immediately threw the litter on the streets. As a result, the council had—and still has—to employ a number of workers who go round in the middle of the night sweeping up the streets. They have to cope with even worse pollution, from people who vomit on the streets, and even worse—I shall not mention some of the things that those workers have to clear up because it is so disgusting. That is not the sort of environment that anyone would like to live near. Fortunately, in that area there are not many residential establishments.

The assistant commissioner of the metropolitan police told us at the same meeting that that kind of environment is spreading into the suburbs. The late night culture has spread to places such as Romford, Watford, Ealing, Croydon and so on, where clubs are accompanied by fast-food establishments. When tourists arrive the following morning, council officials are still trying to clear up the mess.

The principle of the polluter pays does not apply because local authorities may well be faced with large additional costs of rectifying the burden on their environment by having to employ many additional workers late at night. Yet the licence fee, which we will turn to later no doubt, is sufficient only to cover the actual costs imposed on the council in operating that system.

So I think it would be good if we could—not perhaps in the particular way that the noble Baroness has described, but in some other manner—ensure that the council has the ability, where there are severe threats to the environment, to do something about it in its licensing policy. What I am afraid of, to be quite frank about the matter, is that it will not have that ability under the guidance to be issued.

As the noble Baroness is aware, I am really very upset about the way that the Bill is being handled. We will not know until the guidance is issued what powers the local authorities have to deal with these threats. We will have finished with it long before they come to award the licences and before they have to consider the policies we are talking about today. So, I am sorry, but I think that whatever we say today, the powers of the

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local authorities are going to be so limited—and this is what they have expressed to us in their complaints—that we shall not be able to protect the environment, not just at the centre of London but in many of our provincial towns, which are now under grave threat.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I rise to support my noble friend on the Front Bench and also to allude to the speech just made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. In terms of the costs which Westminster expects, in addition to additional administration, inspection and enforcement costs of between 1.6 million and 1.2 million, it estimates that the additional cost of street cleansing to cope with 24-hour opening will be in the region of 1.2 million. Extra noise-abatement costs are estimated to be 500,000.

I put down these markers at this stage because the Government Front Bench will recall that there have been occasions in the past when Westminster has had money taken away from it in the context of people who come into Westminster by day. A large number of the people who come into Soho and the West End stress area during the course of the night are not Westminster residents.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I have listened carefully to the debate on the amendments which seek to alter the licensing objectives which lie at the heart of the Bill. The objectives are designed to ensure that everyone involved in the licensing regime is focused on the common goals that are essential to the well-being of our communities in relation to licensable activities. They are also to ensure that all regulations restricting the freedom of the industry are genuinely necessary and do not duplicate other regulatory regimes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, made reference to issues in Clause 13 occurring late in the Bill. That officer is concerned with noise issues. The noble Baroness will recognise that the officers that are identified are concerned with a number of general issues which are not directly related to the licensable activities.

The four licensing objectives were developed after extensive and detailed consultations with all stakeholders and a lengthy review of the existing law conducted between 1998 and 1999. The result of that consultation is a clear focus on the prevention of disorder and disturbance, the assurance of public safety in places where people gather together for leisure purposes, and the protection of children from physical, moral and psychological harm. The effect of these amendments would be to extend those groups of objectives.

I turn to the noxious issue of what happens to the wrappings from fast-food outlets and so on. We all recognise entirely the validity of what has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Redesdale and Lord Avebury, about the extent of that nuisance. I also respect the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, that there is a cost involved in clearing up this vast amount of litter.

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It is difficult to suggest that the fast-food licensee is responsible for the litter cast away after the food has been consumed. First, the litter is frequently some distance away from the premises; secondly, the person committing the offence is the person who cast the litter. It is against them that action should and is taken in the best circumstances.

No doubt we need to tighten up our regimes in that regard. We know the obligations laid upon the police. But we are all concerned to improve the control of litter in our society. From time to time campaigns are run. I can remember a decade ago, in St James's Park, even the Prime Minister at that time led a campaign against litter. But it is unfair, within the framework of this Bill, to make the owner of the fast-food outlet responsible for the litter cast by people who have consumed his food. They are fully responsible for their own actions.

We should restrict the freedom of persons engaged in legitimate business only to the extent it is absolutely necessary in the wider community interest. Therefore we must be careful only to frame objectives that licensing can properly aim to achieve. These amendments would create new licensing objectives of protection of the environment and minimising or preventing the pollution of the environment.

Of course protection of the environment is an important issue. But it does not come within the scope of this Bill. The terms proposed would open the way for inappropriate and disproportionate conditions. They would overlap with other regimes in place which already impact on business. Environmental protection controls provide extensively for punitive action against businesses which transgress those rules. The intention behind the amendments is already provided for in a balanced way by the Bill as drafted. A range of expert bodies, including those authorities responsible for health and safety and environmental health, including the police and the fire authority, will have a say in all applications and the call for a review of existing licences.

I share the concerns expressed by Members of the Committee in this debate. We all recognise that what has been rightly identified is an issue to which we need to address our resources with care. However, the Bill is not the vehicle for environmental protection of that kind. I recognise that the noble Baroness feels that the amendment would enable us to clarify the Government's position. I hope I have succeeded sufficiently to enable her to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I do not seek in any way to prevent the Minister from sitting down. However, he explained that the fast-food outlet does not have a responsibility for litter and that that responsibility falls on the person who distributes the litter. Let me say, so that it is on the record, that in the days when I lived adjacent to Westminster Cathedral, McDonald's were impeccable in the way they cleared up the litter over the whole of the Westminster Cathedral piazza.

Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his response. I wish to add to what my noble friend

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Lord Brooke said in relation to the activities of McDonald's. As many of us are aware, they are not alone. A number of organisations in the industry go out of their way to try to minimise the impact within the locality of their various premises.

That said, we felt it worthwhile raising this issue for clarification. I shall read in Hansard what the Minister said in relation to the licensing objectives. I am still a little uncertain but I do not want to detain the Committee too long on the matter tonight. We were not seeking to alter the objectives; we sought to add to them. We felt that it was a matter of considerable concern. As I said in my opening statement about the amendments, this area commands the widest public support. We were particularly interested that the risk of pollution of the environment was not one of the objectives, although it is referred to, as the Minister and I said, in Clause 13(4)(d), which refers to,


    "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".

We feel that some of the references are somewhat thrown into the Bill. On the one hand, they are not objectives and, on the other hand, in a sense, they are. That is why I want to read carefully what the Minister said. It is an important issue, but I do not wish to detain the Committee further. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


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