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Lord Davies of Oldham: We have a difference of approach, as is reflected in the amendment. I will seek to defend the position represented in the legislation, and I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, will accept that the amendment is undesirable.
The principle on which we are working is straightforward. The licensing authority's discretion is engaged only when relevant representation has emerged. In seeking that objective, we are seeking to support the concept behind the Bill as a deregulation measure, keeping bureaucracy to the absolute minimum. Under normal circumstances, when no one has objected to the position, the licensing authority is carrying out a straightforward exercise of accepting a licence application to which no one has raised any objection. That will reduce bureaucracy, when no one outside the authority has shown any cause for doubt and the licensing authoritywhich is the local authorityis able judiciously to use its judgment on the licence, to which no one has objected. The problem with the noble Viscount's amendment is that it brings the licensing authority into conflict with itself, having raised objections that were raised by no one else.
The amendment would make a straightforward exercise into a fundamental issue. The local authority on which the premises or club is situated would be able to object to an application for the grant or variation of a licence or certificate, or to complain about certain premises, and give rise to a review of a licence when no one else had done so. That would run counter to the philosophy behind the Bill, which is to keep the system as clear, straightforward and unbureaucratic as possible, and would bring the local authority into a particular relationship when it is itself the licensing authority.
That is the argument and concept behind the clause, and why the amendment should not be accepted. We should consider who has not objected to the application. The police, the fire authority and the local residents have not objectedno one who has a direct interest in the issue has objected. The local councillors have not been active on behalf of anyone else, because no one else has raised an issue with regard to the application. Suddenly, the whole local authority, which is the licensing authority, is part and parcel to an objection. That clearly does not fit with a measure in which there is ample provision for those who object to be able to do so, and there are proper procedures for them to do so. The amendment would introduce a massive complication for the authority in its licensing role. On that basis I hope that the noble Viscount will reconsider the amendment.
We shall discuss aspects of the other amendments, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, referred, on Clause 18. They would broaden the issues to much more general points than the technical grounds on which professional local officers such as environmental health officers can make representations and object. If the amendments were accepted, absolutely any area would be open to objection, with the local authority making representations accordingly.
We are seeking to keep a balanced, proper and correct procedure, which certainly gives the opportunity for those who wish to object and feel the obligation to do so. When no one in the community has objected and no professional body has done so, it must be right to regard the local authority as able to act in its straightforward licensing role and not get involved in the process that the amendment would impose.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: The Minister made reference to Amendments Nos. 186 and 189, which I simply prayed in aid of the amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. One purpose of Amendment No. 186 was to allow police officers and the local authority to make representations in relation to premises supervisors in any circumstances required to promote the licensing objectives. Of course, it is likely that the police will have views on a particular individual as regards licensing. Those who have been inspecting on behalf of the local authority also have
As the noble Lord rightly said, the relevant issues for individuals specified in a premises licence will concern the police. I emphasise that we are seeking to develop a system in which managers can move from premises to premises with the minimum of hindrance. Any objection that was laid against such a manager would inevitably be a police matter, because it would relate to criminal law and to a lack of fitness of the individual to continue in that capacity. We shall have a debate on that subject later, but I emphasise that the issue is one not for the licensing authority but for the police.
The Minister made an interesting and clever speech, knocking down my Aunt Sally. I confess that my amendment is a difficult concept, but he cleverly kept off the licensing objectives, which are at the core of the question. As the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said, there is no reason why the local authorities should not have the right to feel that there was a reason that the licensing objectives were not met.
I take all the points that the Minister made about added bureaucracy, but many of us feel that the Bill will create more bureaucracy anyway, rather than reduce it. On the face of it, the project of removing the licensing of alcohol and entertainment from magistrates to local authorities is a simple one. However, as we are finding out, it is a complex issue, and we would not be debating the matter in Committee for five days if it were not. We do not yet have the guidelines.
We shall deal with the licensing objectives later. However, I take what the Minister says, and compliment him on the clever way in which he made my amendment look irrelevant and obscure. However, I hope that he understands me when I say that we would like to reconsider the points that were raised. We have been advised that the issue is important, and we shall, if necessary, return to it at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment. The amendments so far have been aimed at widening the number of people who could object. This one goes in the opposite direction, as the Minister will no doubt point out. He has strenuously rejected any attempt to
Baroness Buscombe: I support the amendment, to which my name and that of my noble friend Lord Luke have been added. It would be otiose to repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said. I apologise to the Committee for being so dilatory in not thanking the Minister at the beginning of our debates today for her letter dated today. I am reminded of it by the reference of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, to the lack of draft guidance. I am pleased that the Minister's letter has confirmed that draft guidance will be available in time for Report.
We are all extremely grateful that the Minister has seen fit to strengthen her team to ensure that sufficient resources are concentrated on the production of the guidance. We are grateful that she has listened to our earnest pleas for sight of the guidance before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House. Many of the practical implications of the Bill will be dealt with in the guidance. I am grateful to the Minister for making strenuous efforts to ensure that we shall be able to have the guidance at our side when we debate the Bill on Report.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I support the amendment. I listened to the Minister say how precise and clear the list is and how we do not need to extend it. However, he then shoots himself in the foot under paragraph (g) by saying that the Government will have anybody else that they like at the time prescribed. There is no logic in that. The Minister has talked eloquently and persuasively, while I have been sitting here quietly, about how all the earlier categories under subsection (4) are exhaustive, exhausting and explicit. Then, lo and behold, he goes and does this. I cannot see how he can logically defend it.
Lord Davies of Oldham: This is a case of girding one's loins. I shall clearly do my best to keep the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, in what he indicates has been a benign frame of mind for the past half hour or so as we have debated these issues. I am grateful for the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, moved his amendment and to the noble Baroness Lady Buscombe, who, for the first time, mentioned her colleague the noble Lord, Lord Luke, who I understand is enjoying his 70th birthday today. That gives me the chance to congratulate him. I am sure that we all wish him well on such an auspicious day. He is fortunate not to be in my position on these challenging amendments.
The answer is straightforward. There is nothing sinister in the proposals. We simply seek to make provision for the possible development of public authorities that we know not of at the moment. In due course Parliament and the executive may, in their wisdom, seek to develop fresh authorities, public bodies anddare I sayeven quangos, which may have an interest in this area. We cannot define them at this stage because they do not exist. However, it would not be right to have to go back to primary legislation to include the interests of any such body if it were widely recognised to have a proper interest and role to play. For example, the list contains the Maritime and Coastguard Agency as agents of the Secretary of State. We do not know whether it or any other body may have its name or role changed. Change occurs with such bodies. We are merely seeking to avoid the need to use primary legislation to bring them within the framework. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee saw no reason to object to the provision. I am taking the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, at his word. This is a probing amendment and it has certainly probed me quite deeply. I hope I have given a satisfactory response.
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