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Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 89:

"( ) section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37)."

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The noble Baroness said: On Clause 4, the helpful Explanatory Notes that accompany the Bill say:

    "Its proposals are intended to ensure that the provision of additional opportunities for licensable activities are matched by additional measures enabling the police and licensing authorities to act promptly to maintain public order and safety".

I believe that my amendment fulfils that intention.

At Second Reading, I reminded noble Lords of my former work as a magistrate—I am still on the Supplemental List—as chair of a police authority, and as a former member of a local authority. However, it is mainly as a former magistrate that I want to speak to this amendment. I hope that Members of the Committee will accept this declaration of my interests throughout the course of the Bill.

On almost every occasion on which I sat in the adult court, my colleagues and I had to deal with drunk and disorderly defendants. It was mainly young men, often from the large Army garrison situated nearby, who would come into Richmond specifically to drink themselves senseless. I shall not dwell on their appalling behaviour thereafter, but it frequently drew in the local hooligan element—a recipe for disorder, if not always crime. Residents of the town have complained bitterly about the behaviour of some of these young people, and have refused to go into the town centre at night. The police, who perform a magnificent job in coping with such behaviour, with, I must add, occasional support from the military police, have, nevertheless, a difficult time on Friday and Saturday nights in general.

My amendment is explicitly designed to put on the face of the Bill a requirement that Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 will apply in such circumstances. I should, first, remind noble Lords what that Act says:

    "Without prejudice to any other obligation imposed on it, it shall be the duty of each authority to which this section applies to exercise its various functions with due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of those functions on, and the need to do all that it reasonably can to prevent, crime and disorder in its area".

I am grateful to the Minister for her letter of reassurance dated 16th December, in which she points out,

    "that Local Authorities already are, and will continue to be required to take Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act in to account".

It is important for us to remember that there is a need to tie licensing in with crime and disorder. This is an ideal part of the Bill in which to include it. Although we have already touched on the cumulative impact of a number of licensed premises situated close to one another, this can bring the probability of disorder. As the ACPO briefing suggests:

    "The concentration of licensed premises, and the collocation of similar types of venue, within certain areas of a town or city can be associated with crime and disorder. Whilst Government policy is that economic demand may not be a relevant factor upon which to mount an objection, nonetheless, it is the police who must deal with all consequent problems whilst the height of the economic ceiling is determined".

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, referred to the following part of the ACPO briefing when moving Amendment No. 87, but it is worth repeating.

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It states:

    "There comes a time where saturation point is reached and the addition of any further licensed premises has the potential to considerably exacerbate existing problems of crime and disorder.

    We feel that both the police and the local authority, bearing in mind its responsibilities under the Crime and Disorder Act, should be able to raise objections based specifically upon the addition and cumulative impact of a new premises on the crime and disorder problems in the area. It should be possible to raise these objections both at the planning stage and, bearing in mind that planing consent is not always necessary, at the time of application for a premises licence".

I believe that it is important that the Government accept this amendment. I beg to move.

1.30 p.m.

Lord Avebury: I warmly support my noble friend in this amendment. I also have to say that I was truly disappointed by the Minister's reply to the question I asked on the previous amendment—that we do not even know the figures for disorder in particular areas, or how they relate, if at all, to the concentration of licensed premises in those areas. However, in quoting the example of the city council in Manchester, where there has been a similar relationship between the level of crime and disorder and the number of establishments, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, confirmed my subjective impression that there is a relationship between growth in late-night drinking and increased crime and disorder.

I take this opportunity to mention another problem which has not been discussed so far: how local authorities deal with the large number of vehicles coming into these areas when there is nowhere for them to park. In the stressed area of Soho/Covent Garden, late-night car removal vehicles go round picking up and removing illegally parked cars. A large number of traffic attendants are employed by private companies on behalf of the London Borough of Westminster to deal with infringements. Although not a serious crime, parking illegally is an offence which can result in quite severe penalties in terms of the cost associated with recovering removed vehicles.

There is another aspect, however, which I find extremely alarming and unpleasant—the racial attacks on parking attendants which occur late at night and certainly not simply at 3 a.m., although they may peak as people leave clubs and pubs seeking to recover their vehicles. One might ask as an aside how much effort the police can put into ensuring that people do not get into vehicles when they have had too much to drink in these establishments. The police told me, not in relation to that particular offence but in general, that they probably arrest no more than one in 10 of those committing offences in the late-night economy. If they arrested more, they would completely clog up the facilities at the police station and, the following morning, in the magistrates' court.

I hope that in obtaining the figures which she has promised to give to the House, which I am surprised we have not been able to access before this debate, the

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Minister will pay particular attention to the appalling problem of racial attacks on parking attendants in the late hours.

I am truly surprised to see the noble Baroness giggling as she sits there on the Bench.

Baroness Blackstone: I am just very surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for whom I have the greatest respect, is raising issues about racial attacks on parking attendants when they have absolutely nothing to do with Amendment No. 89. We on this side of the House are rather concerned about the very slow progress. We have five days for Committee stage, and I am worried that we will not get through all the work that we have to do. It is very difficult to allocate more days, and the fifth day is already an extra day. If I was giggling, it was simply because I was surprised that the noble Lord should be talking about something that truly has nothing to do with the amendment.

Lord Avebury: It has everything to do with the amendment. The strategy to reduce crime and disorder in an area must include a strategy for dealing with racially motivated crimes, which the Government purport to take very seriously and on which Parliament has imposed additional penalties under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and under various other legislation. As the noble Baroness treats this as lightly and facetiously as she does, I shall not pursue the matter now; I shall find another opportunity to raise it more substantively. However, I utterly refute her allegation that the question of racially motivated assaults on traffic wardens and the strategy for dealing with them has nothing to do with this amendment.

Lord Tope: I feel very slightly intimidated in rising to support Amendment No. 89, but I should like to do so briefly. One of my very much less time-consuming interests, which I have not declared, is as vice-chairman of the community safety panel of the Association of London Government. In that capacity recently, I was reviewing the crime and disorder strategies for all 32 London boroughs. I think that I am right in recalling that every one of them, or certainly the vast majority of them, listed dealing with anti-social behaviour as among its top three priorities.

I expect that, in a minute, the Minister—I always anticipate the Minister's reply—will tell us that the amendment is unnecessary because local authorities already have to take into account the implications for crime and disorder in all that they do, and that is certainly right. However, I agree with my noble friend Lady Harris that it would be appropriate to include in the Bill this simple but very important reminder to the local authority when acting as a licensing authority that it should consider crime and disorder matters, and that we should give local authorities the authority to do so when dealing with applicants for whom that may

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not always be the highest priority. I am therefore pleased to support this amendment and to do so briefly.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has answered the debate; I do not really need to say any more. I can give an absolute assurance that Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act is obligatory on all local authorities for all of their functions; therefore it covers their functions as licensing authorities as well. The only reason why we have to put it in the Bill at all—as we have done, of course, as one of the four licensing objectives—is that it is not absolutely certain that Section 17 of the Act would also apply to any appeal body considering a licensing issue. The inclusion of crime and disorder as one of the four licensing objectives fills that possible gap. There is no other gap. There is a complete obligation on all licensing local authorities to consider Section 17. The amendment is indeed unnecessary.

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