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Lord Tope: Perhaps the Minister will forgive my intervening. She provokes me. I know she is aware that most of outer London is residential and that the licensed premises referred to are not street corner pubs dotted at the end of each street; they are concentrated in town and district centres. So to suggest that there is not a problem because they are nicely and evenly spread around outer London is slightly misleading.
Baroness Blackstone: I did not say that there was never a problem. I was simply agreeing with the noble Lord that the numbers have grown in these areas; but I wanted to set that in context, in terms of the position in the past, when the number of licensed premises was relatively small.
Lord Tope: I do not want to prolong this debate for too long, but the other point that these bald figures do not take into account is that the nature of the licensed premises has changed significantly. That will not affect the number of licences, but it has a considerable effect on the number of people using the licensed premises, which, while the licence has remained the same, have changed from what might be described as the traditional pub into places of entertainment.
The concerns of the Committee regarding saturation are clear from our debates both on this and on previous amendments. I repeat what I said when we were last in Committee: the Government are sensitive to those concerns. I am willing to return to the House on this matter on Report. Indeed, I have set out our thinking on where we might be able to come up with some appropriate amendments. We aim to provide a mechanism that is fair to local residents and to legitimate and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, responsible businesses.
We have to be fair to the industry. It is not the case that the vast majority of owners or managers of licensed premises are unaware of their responsibilities. We must be fair also to domestic consumers within the UK, and to touristsmany of whom visit our city centres because of their reputation as vibrant, dynamic places where they can have a good time. We must not forget that most of them behave responsibly and show respect for local residents.
That said, as I have acknowledged, there is a problem to be addressed. However, I am not sure that the amendments as tabled would have quite the impact that is intended. For example, imposing a blanket closing time in a particular area might perpetuate the disorder that is associated with artificially early fixed closing times and give rise to a new form of disorder as groups of people migrate between zones. This was one of the principal effects of Edinburgh's zoning policy, and for that reason it was abandoned.
Viscount Falkland: Before the Minister sits down, in the debate between herself, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and my noble friend Lord Avebury, she expressed some scepticism about the view that concentrations of people in city centres and alcohol were clearly a prescription for greater violence and crime. She rightly reminded us that in her distinguished career as a social scientist she had not found enough evidence to persuade her that that was necessarily the case.
In the spirit of being helpful, perhaps I may remind the Minister that in the last days of the Conservative Administration, the All-Party Group on Alcohol Misuse, together with Alcohol Concern, which is a government-sponsored body, under the excellent chairmanship of the present Secretary of State for Health, Mr Alan Milburn, there was a study of alcohol and crime, particularly in areas of high-density population, to which verbal and written evidence was given by every single body and individual whose input might be useful. It included prison governors, probation officers, the police and so on. It was a long and detailed report. In its entirety, it lent a great deal of authority and support to the views expressed by Members of Committee.
Needless to say, that report, which some of my colleaguesin a rather optimistic frame of mindthought would hit the press with some impact, failed to do so. It now rests in the Home Office files gathering dust. It may be helpful to the Minister and her officials if, between now and Report, they could turn up the report. Not much has changed since then; in fact, matters have probably got worse in terms of crime.
We are talking about crimes of violence. We are not talking about pickpocketswho make very bad pickpockets when they are drunk. We are talking about people who attack others, and who go homethis forms an important part of the reportand beat
Baroness Blackstone: That was a very long intervention "before I sat down"! Yes, of course, I absolutely accept what the noble Viscount has said. There is indeed a relationship between alcoholism, drunkenness and violent crime. That, with respect, was not the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. He asked whether there was any evidence that there is more violent crime as a result of a concentration of premises serving drink in central London, compared with the position in other parts of the country.
There is more violent crime in central London, for many different and complex reasons. There is no simple answer to that question. But of course I am aware of the association between excessive drinking and violence.
Lord Monson: As we are in Committee, I believe I am entitled to put another question to the Minister. She said that if there were problems of noise and disturbance associated with one particular pub or club, the Bill provides that the licence can be reviewed. One accepts that. But if the review finds against the premises in question, all that can happen under the Bill as it stands is that the licence is withdrawn. That is a fairly draconian, "over the top" punishment. There seems to be no power simply to decree that the premises should close at half past eleven, midnight or whatever, which might solve the problem for residents in the area. We are all trying to suggest that to the Government.
The Minister speaks time and again of licensees' responsibility. Let us suppose that all the licensees in a small town or suburb were happy to maintain their present closing hours because they would not do much business after 11 p.m. Do the Government suggest that those licensees would therefore be irresponsible, anti-social and likely to encourage binge-drinking? It will be interesting to have an answer. I suspect that many licensees will be happy to continue closing at the time they do now.
Baroness Blackstone: I understand that the main force of Amendment No. 87 is that a licensing authority can restrict the number of licensed premises, regulate the type of licensed premises or impose a generalised closing time in any part of a town centre or other locality in the licensing area. That will not be possible under this legislation for the reasons I have set out. But any licensing authority will have up its sleeve a flexible range of sanctions: it can modify the conditions to a licence, revoke a licence or suspend it
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I apologise to the Minister for speaking again. I said that much hangs on the Government's view that planning will solve the problems that the Licensing Bill creates. It is desirable that we tease out the issue. I acknowledged in my speech Westminster's role in granting entertainment licences. I do not disagree with that.
I inadvertently misled the House in quoting Westminster as having 263 late-night licences. That is the number in the Soho-Covent Garden stress area. There are 583 in the whole of Westminster, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, quoted in an earlier debate.
Today, and in the past, the Minister has made much of the programme that Manchester is running. But noble Lords taking part in these debates have received additional briefing from Manchester City Council. I shall not quote all eight items of supplementary evidence. The council says that there has been a 250 per cent increase over the past 10 years in the number of licensed premises in the city centre, and a similar increase in alcohol-related crime and disorder. The repopulation of the city centre has seen a large increase in complaints from local residents about noise and nuisance, both from within licensed premises and from revellers leaving them. There are also complaints from the universities that Manchester's poor night-time image is adversely affecting enrolment. I do not question anything the Minister said about Manchester, but the story is not as straightforward as she may have suggested.
The Government Front Bench were unable to answer the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. The peak time for offending in the Covent Garden-Soho stress area is 3 a.m. As I said earlier, the attraction of criminals to the area in order to rob people is influenced by the fact that many drunk people will be wandering around. Drunk people are easier to take money from than are sober people. I cannot give figures on violence, but 3 a.m. is the peak time for street crime in Westminster as a whole.
I apologise to the Committee for taking a little time. My point about planning relates to the changes made in 1987. As the Minister will know, bars and clubs fall into the same A3 category as restaurants and coffee bars. It is, therefore, feasible, without further planning application, to change a restaurant or coffee bar into a bar or pub. Similarly, nothing in planning law can prevent a cinema being turned into a night club, which is in category D2, as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said.
Planning cannot curtail growth. Planning permission is given for ever, a licence for a much shorter period. The planning inspectorate does not regard crime and disorder as a proper reason for refusing to accept an appeal. I have a long case study that could not make the point more clearly. I shall not read it now; I shall send it to the Minister. Two small restaurants, previously individual establishments
The use of the UDP is an alternative way of proceeding. Since all planning decisions must be in line with the UDP, one can change the whole UDP and begin an inquiry. A dynamic night economy needs more flexibility than is provided by the cumbersome process of changing the UDP and a subsequent inquiry. As Wellington said, he beat Napoleon because his harness was made of leather whereas Napoleon's was made of iron. I have a considerable case study that illustrates my point.
The Minister implies that Westminster's decisions on A3 applications, as well as on entertainment licences, had given rise to the problem. The problem is that A3 applications were granted when the council had control of licensing. The power to impose an iron harness in licensing decisions is removed from Westminster City Council. It can do nothing about the fact that, arguably, there are too many licensed premises since it no longer has licensing control.
I have another case history to back my final point. I can send it to the Minister. Breaches of planning law are treated in a much less draconian manner than are breaches of licensing law. In this instance, the case history is of someone who offended in 1998. Four years later, he is still practising, following a series of intervening efforts to reverse the planning breach. Throughout that period, he has been able to continue to trade in alcohol.
I indicated to the Minister during a previous briefing session the history of sex shops in Westminster, particularly Soho. I went to the then Home Secretary, later to become Lord Whitelaw, in around 1981 to say that there were 164 sex establishments in Soho and that there appeared to be no way in which the tide could be reversed. An area of inner London much wider than Soho, which had become attractive, was likely to be polluted by the condition. The Department of the Environment made it perfectly clear that it had no intention of preventing this through planning laws. Home Office officials advised Lord Whitelawas he later becamenot to move to a licensing system. He accepted my point that the situation would not be reversed without a licensing system. A licensing system was brought in, giving considerable powers to local authorities to decide how many sex establishments they wanted locally, which is what we have been discussing in this debate. Westminster decided to have a maximum of 10 spread throughout the city.
That had a profound effect on the pleasantness of Soho during the 1980s. Many old ladies had previously not been prepared to go down the street past eight sex establishments in order to do their grocery shopping. Once those shops were occupied by butchers, bakers
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