Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Blackstone: The answer is yes: a Member of Parliament could act as a representative.

13 Jan 2003 : Column 35

Viscount Falkland: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for responding to this great raft of amendments in such a helpful and detailed way. I apologise to the Committee for running on in my enthusiasm to a later grouping—the fault of my highlighting pencil—but the Minister was kind enough to say that the amendments were related and to respond to them.

This has been an interesting debate. Those outside the House who take a close interest in the Bill will find the Minister's remarks and the contributions of other noble Lords extremely useful. This is one area of the Bill where we do not know what will happen when it is enacted. The Government take a slightly more optimistic view than do some Members on this side of the Committee, although it is actually not a party political matter. Some government Members may take a not very sanguine view of the ability under the Bill to obtain alcohol at all hours of the day and night. There will undoubtedly be difficulties.

If I interpret the Minister's remarks correctly, she is not prepared to acknowledge that we live in a highly mobile society. The whole business of "vicinity" and "locality" is the subject of much concern. After all, people may come out of a club that does not properly control the amount of alcohol sold to people who are clearly unable to hold it. One hopes that those people will return home by public transport, not in their cars. Happily, that is one area of our culture that has changed. Such people now know that it is illegal and improper to drive their cars. But people will move about in areas well removed from the source of the problem.

We shall carefully study the Minister's remarks, as I suspect will those outside the House. The cause of much concern is whether sufficient protection is in place under the liberalisation—with which we agree in theory—that the Government are introducing. That is what the amendments were intended to winkle out—to use that unparliamentary expression—from the Government. I thank the Minister for her complete answer. I shall carefully consider it and return to the matter later.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Before my noble friend withdraws the amendment, to assist the House, will the noble Baroness, after the debate, consider her reply to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville? I think there may be a misunderstanding. I understood the Minister to say that an MP could under the subsection be representative of people living in the vicinity of a pub. That may not be right, in that the "interested party" definition is either of persons living in the vicinity or having a business in the vicinity or a body representing such persons. I do not understand how an MP could fall within the definition of a body representing persons.

Viscount Falkland: Or a councillor.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Or a councillor, as my noble friend says.

13 Jan 2003 : Column 36

Finally, there may have been a misunderstanding about what was said vis-à-vis school governors. I think that the Minister said words to the effect that a board of governors could, if one of them lived in the vicinity of a pub, thereby become an interested party. That is undoubtedly true, but what was being suggested was that if, let us say, a primary school in a village had threequarters of its pupils coming from the village, the primary school committee could be a body representing those of the children who came from the village. I do not want the Minister to be drawn into those refinements now—this is hard for everyone—but it may be appropriate for her to consider the matter and communicate further.

Viscount Falkland: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 139 to 146 not moved.]

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 147:

    Page 8, line 20, at end insert—

"( ) the Member of the European Parliament, the Member of Parliament and the local ward councillors for the constituency or ward in which the premises are situated"

The noble Baroness said: Following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, said, we ask in the amendment whether,

    "the Member of the European Parliament, the Member of Parliament and the local ward councillors for the constituency or ward in which the premises are situated",

would fall within the definition of "interested party". As I understood it, the Minister said that a Member of Parliament would. However, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that on reading the wording of the Bill, it is hard to see how that is the case.

Clause 13(3)(a) states:

    "a person living in the vicinity of the premises".

It is not unknown for Members of Parliament, of the European Parliament, and so on, to live outside the area they represent—which is the vicinity of the premises. As for,

    "a body representing persons",

an individual Member of Parliament or of the European Parliament is not a body. A Member of Parliament or of the European Parliament is not necessarily,

    "a person involved in a business in that vicinity".

Clause 13(3)(d) states:

    "a body representing persons involved in such businesses".

Again, that does not allow for the inclusion of a Member of Parliament or of the European Parliament.

I therefore ask the Minister to support Amendment No. 147 and consequential Amendment No. 295—especially if she supports the notion that a Member of Parliament, national or European, or councillor should be an interested party in his or her constituency or ward, as I think and hope she does. I have not chosen to move the previous amendment concerning

13 Jan 2003 : Column 37

the word "representation", because I listened to what the Minister said about the principle behind the clause. I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham: Perhaps I may rejoin the debate, having missed a little of it. I declare my interest as a member of a local authority.

I support my noble friend's amendment, especially as it concerns ward councillors. It is strange that there is nothing in subsection (3)(a), (b), (c) or (d) by which a ward councillor could be identified. In my experience of licensing panels, ward councillors tend to become involved not only in their own interest but in the interest of those whom they represent.

My noble friend is correct. Paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) contain nothing that could be translated into the terms of her amendment. If, in due course, we are left with the list of interested parties in the Bill, there will be continued debate about whether a ward councillor can attend—unless someone has a copy of Hansard to hand to look up the reference. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us again on that point. I believe that she has done so previously.

Baroness Blackstone: The amendments would make Members of the European Parliament and Members of Parliament "interested parties" for premises within their constituencies. Councillors would be interested parties for premises within their wards. Under the Bill, interested parties may make representations about applications for licences or certificates. They may also apply to the relevant licensing authority for reviews of licences or certificates. Therefore, the amendments would allow MEPs, MPs and councillors to make representations about applications for licences and to apply for reviews of licences and certificates for any premises within their constituency or ward.

The Government believe that the licensing system should be managed by democratically accountable bodies. That is why we are transferring responsibility for alcohol licensing from the licensing justices. We also believe that local residents and businesses should be given the opportunity to have their say about licensed premises in their vicinity. That is why those groups are included in the list of interested parties.

It is the case that any resident living in the vicinity may use any representative to put his or her case. I hope that that answers the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. The representative could be a solicitor, a friend, a relative, a Member of Parliament, a ward councillor, an MEP, a Member of the National Assembly for Wales or of a body representing the amenity interests in the vicinity. Therefore, a person can nominate any individual to act on his or her behalf. But why should any of those individuals have a say "in their own right"? In every case that I have cited, "representative" is the appropriate word. If no local resident in the vicinity wants to exercise his or her right to make representation or to apply for a review, whom would those representatives be representing?

The representatives are available if a local resident wants to use their services. However, views should not be expressed on a resident's behalf when he or she has

13 Jan 2003 : Column 38

not been consulted and has not made a request. The rights given are to protect those directly affected by activities to be carried on at the premises concerned. It is not a matter for others to tell residents that they know better.

In the light of what I have said I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Lord Borrie: Before my noble friend sits down, I listened to the earlier points made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. I found the Minister's response to the amendment rather difficult. If anyone can represent a person living in the vicinity of the premises, what is the point of the special mention in subsection (3)(b) of,

    "a body representing persons who live in that vicinity"?

If it is either a person or a body, the subsection should say so. Alternatively, there is no need for paragraph (b). I find it rather difficult to understand. I should be grateful if the Minister would explain whether I have misunderstood the provision.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page