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Baroness Buscombe: I hear what the Minister says about the amendment going beyond the scope of the Bill. However, it reminds us of the many reasons why we had such long debates earlier in Committee about the will and the wish of so many different communities freely to enjoy music, dancing and theatre without the imposition of too many requirements for licences.

That sentiment exists in all parts of the Committee, for which we are grateful. It serves as a good reminder that, although this is the Licensing Bill, it is also a de-regulating Bill. We hope that the Bill will encourage

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and promote live music, dancing and theatre, albeit through the guidance. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 115:


    Page 4, line 3, leave out subsection (7).

The noble Baroness said: We have spent all the debate on the Bill so far hearing the Minister sweeping aside our amendments on the basis that—and I believe that I can quote accurately—


    "this is a deregulating Bill and this is a regulating amendment".

I believe that that has been said on a number of occasions by Ministers.

It could be said to be the litany of the Bill, but here is one for the Ministers. We believe that so far this appears to be more of a regulating Bill, and Amendment No. 115 is a deregulating amendment. There is no reason that I can see for the Government to take further unspecified regulating powers to control the preparation of licensing policies. We already have the Bill; we will have the general guidance or regulations under the Bill; we have the requirement to consult under this clause; and we have the requirement to review policy every three years. What more regulations do we need? What is there in the clause that needs to be regulated that the Government do not believe can be satisfactorily covered in the guidance it proposes?

Therefore, will the Minister specify the type of regulations that she has in mind? What will they cover and how onerous will they be? This is an example of entirely otiose zeal to regulate, which completely undermines every comment that the Ministers have made on the Bill so far. I appeal to Ministers to prove the deregulating credentials that they keep claiming, to accept the amendment and to strike out this regulating power. I beg to move.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I support my noble friend. These catch-all clauses are difficult to live with. They provide a means for the Government to block any holes that they feel they may have forgotten. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am astonished. I was glaring at the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, hoping that he would rise to defend the Government. It is clearly in the interests of everyone, including the general public and applicants for licences, that the process covered in subsection (7)—namely, provision for the determination and revision of policies and the preparation and publication of licensing statements—should be consistent across the country.

If I were a large brewer I would be demanding that. I would be expecting it laid down in regulation and not left to licensing policy. The content of the licensing policy is, of course, deregulated in the sense that it is left to the licensing authority. However, the process

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should be consistent. The process of consultation, publication and how the determination and revision takes place is a proper matter for regulation.

Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his robust response. I am reminded that two years ago today—it was last business before Christmas two years ago—the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and I spoke at Second Reading of the Regulatory Reform Bill. This is just like old times—here we are again talking about more regulations.

I hear the Minister's comments. I hear his robust response. I am encouraged that the Minister is referring to the need for consistency across the country. My concern is that the clause as it stands is open-ended, as my noble friend Lord Hodgson said. Perhaps clarity would be helpful, although I believe that we have received that in some part from the Minister today. I shall read his comments with care in Hansard. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 116:


    Page 4, line 5, at end insert—


"( ) The licensing authority shall publish the names of all those consulted, any evidence submitted and the result of the consultation."

The noble Lord said: Before the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, leaves the Chamber, perhaps I may say that if his interpretation of what is in subsection (7) is correct, I happily withdraw what I said and accept his strictures.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: All I did was read out what was in subsection (7). I did not interpret it.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: With that, I turn to Amendment No. 116. It is intended to help with transparency of the process. It inserts a new subsection at the end of Clause 5, which requires local authorities to give details of those who were consulted, what evidence was submitted and any conclusions that were drawn by the local authority. Under Clause (5)(3), there is a duty to consult widely. However, with the exception of two people—the chief officer of police and the representative of the fire authority—the decision on who should be consulted lies in the hands of the licensing authority. Under paragraph (f), it is,


    "such other persons as the licensing authority considers to be representative of businesses and residents in its area".

I understand that it is not possible to be more precise in the Bill than that, but it is possible that particularly under paragraph (f), but perhaps also under paragraphs (c), (d) and (e), the local authority could be partial in its selection of those involved. It could be partial in favour of a relaxed policy or partial in favour or a more restricted one.

It is helpful for the public in each local authority area to be able to discover who has been consulted so that they may draw whatever conclusions they wish. It

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will be well known who in each area is keen to extend licensing and who is more of the temperance persuasion. It is right that they should be consulted, but there should be a balance in consultation. The way to achieve balance locally is to ensure that it is public knowledge who has been consulted and what evidence they have submitted. I beg to move.

Lord Avebury: I support the noble Lord's amendment, but perhaps not for the reason which motivated him to table it. Of those who are to be consulted, those set out in paragraphs (a) to (d) are concerned with promoting the culture of drinking and the expansion of drinking establishments. Only under paragraph (f) is it possible for organisations that may have a different point of view to be consulted. They may represent the temperance movement or be residents in the area who are opposed to the extension of such establishments into their immediate districts.

It is important that we know who is to be consulted. We can then examine the balance of representations on such occasions. I fear that under such a list all the weight will be on the side of those who want to promote further expansion of the drinking culture and that little, if any, will be on the side of those who represent an opposite point of view.

Baroness Buscombe: I support the amendment. It is important that, as the Government rightly say, there is transparency. It is important that everyone is aware of who has been consulted and who has given an opinion. There is then more opportunity for people to appreciate that a balanced decision has been made. It is for the benefit of all parties involved.

Baroness Blackstone: I understand and support the intentions behind the amendment. It is vital that the system should be both open and transparent. However, Clause 5(7) already contains the power for the Secretary of State to make regulations about the determination and revision of licensing policies and the preparation and publication of licensing statements. I hope that I can reassure the Committee that the regulations will set out rules which relate to the openness and transparency of consultation on licensing policy, including the matters which both noble Lords and the noble Baroness have raised.

I believe that those provisions will be sufficient. In the light of that I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

2.45 p.m.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: We come back to this issue again and again. Every time we raise a question about the Bill we are told, "Do not worry about it. It is all in the regulations". When we ask, "Well, what is in the regulations?", we are told "They are not quite ready yet; they will be along shortly". The Government cannot have it both ways. Either they say, "This is an issue that is addressed in regulations, and here are the regulations and you can see them", or they say, "The issue is not addressed in regulations", in

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which case we are entitled to have more on the face of the Bill. This issue has been raised on many occasions in the proceedings of the Committee by my noble friend on the Front Bench, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and many others. The Minister simply cannot have her cake and eat it too.

I shall not detain the Committee by pressing the amendment, but I reserve the right to come back to it at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Licensing committees]:


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