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Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful for the way in which noble Lords have presented the amendments. I am unable to accept them, but I recognise that they are advanced in a constructive vein to solve a problem, and I shall seek to explain why the Government have a slightly different perspective on the question of the efficiency with which we can discharge obligations on personal licences.

As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, the lead amendment would give responsibility to the licensing authority for the area in which someone applying for the grant or renewal of a personal licence lives, or where a person is supervising premises on which alcohol is supplied. We have no strong quarrel with what I take to be the aim of the amendment. However, it is not necessary. For the sake of the efficiency of the system, it is desirable to have one licensing authority

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for personal licences and their renewal. The question is how we guarantee that there is one authority to do that.

The amendment is unnecessary because Clause 115(2) already makes it clear that an applicant who is ordinarily resident in the area of one licensing authority must apply to that authority for the grant of a personal licence. It will be the relevant licensing authority for all time in respect of that personal licence and will be the authority to which applications for renewal must be made. We do not want applicants shopping around for personal licences—I am not sure that the noble Lord would want it either—even though the Bill provides for a common standard. The reference in the amendment to registration as premises supervisor is also unnecessary. By virtue of Clause 19, the premises supervisor must already hold a valid personal licence if alcohol may be supplied on the premises concerned.

The other problem with the noble Lord's amendment is that it appears to assume that all applicants for a personal licence will live in the area of a licensing authority—that is, in England and Wales. I have no doubt that the vast majority will, but some will live in other parts of the United Kingdom and some in other parts of the European Union. Provision must be made for them as well.

The Earl of Onslow: Why does someone living in Aix-la-Chapelle need a personal licence to run a pub? He does not need it. It has nothing to do with the licensing authority in Truro. As I understood it, the noble Lord said that some applicants may live in other parts of the European Union, but they need the licence to run a pub in Leeds or Truro, not in Aix-la-Chapelle.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Someone may live in Paris and run a licensed establishment in London. The place that someone gives as their place of residence may be some distance from the licensed premises. Not all publicans live above the pub, although some do. In fact, the noble Earl is probably reflecting the fact that in all the hostelries that he visits—as I do—the publican lives on the premises. However, we are talking about a wider range than that.

We must be able to ensure that there is a personal licence for everybody involved in the trade. We want one location in which someone can acquire a licence, and we want that location to remain valid for them. We must avoid the problem with the constant mobility of people applying for licences.

Lord Redesdale: I take the Minister's point on board. He has strengthened the argument that I wished to get across, which was that, when someone initially applies for a licence, there is nothing to say that they have been a permanent resident in the area for just two weeks. Someone could turn up in whatever local authority area they wished and apply for a personal licence. Someone working for a particular group of pubs may be required to apply for a personal licence in a particular authority's area, so that everyone is

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dealing with the same authority, which causes fewer difficulties. Many pub companies will have pubs throughout the country, but they may ask their trainees to register for a personal licence in a certain authority area.

The issue has not been addressed by the Bill. The permanent residence test is not very difficult. Someone need be there for only a couple of weeks and say that they are a permanent resident to register for the personal licence. It will cost some authorities more than others if some pub companies decide to register a vast number of their personal licences in one authority area. That will create disproportionate costs for that local authority.

The Earl of Onslow: Obviously I am being stupid. I cannot understand. If I have a licence which says that I, Michael Onslow, is capable of running a pub—I accept that any local authority which gave me that licence should be struck off, but that is altogether a different issue—that licence runs out after 10 years. I used to work in Truro. I now work in Scunthorpe. Why cannot I say to the Scunthorpe people, "Here is my old licence. I am of good character, I have not gone down the drain, and I am still capable of running a pub. Please will you renew the licence"? That seems eminently sensible and easy. With modern communications, the information goes on a computer database and everyone knows who you are. That is not asking for anything complicated. The Inland Revenue computer is seriously complicated. But that action seems perfectly sensible.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I agree with the noble Earl that that is not excessively complicated but neither is the system we propose. On starting out in the trade one takes out a personal licence in the area in which one lives. What is complicated about having to go back to that area for the renewal of the licence? It is right that modern communications facilitate mobility. But, by the same token, modern communications make it easy for a person in Newcastle to apply to Truro—from which he obtained his original licence—for renewal, against the guarantee that he meets the requirements specified in the Bill for the granting of the licence.

We seek to keep the system as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible. We are on the same wavelength. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and I seek to provide the least complicated system possible. Over a period of time people will need to renew personal licences. I had hoped to convince the noble Earl that I have to take into account those people who do not live in English or Welsh local authority areas which come within the purview of the Bill. We have to have a structure which makes due allowance for those people.

The noble Earl will recognise that we all apply for documents from outside our area every day of the week. One thinks of a driving licence, passport, or almost any other document one needs. One is lucky if the local authority provides it. Even if it is the local authority, one is lucky to regard that as inherently a better service than elsewhere.

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For simplicity, insisting that a person obtains the first licence from his local authority area if he lives in an English or Welsh local authority licensing area and goes back to that base when wishing to renew that licence seems to make eminent sense. It is the basis on which the Bill is constructed.

The Earl of Onslow: I have a firearms licence and have a shotgun licence. I live at home. The Surrey constabulary deal with it. If I were to move to Leicestershire or Yorkshire and had to renew my firearms licence or shotgun certificate, I should have to renew it with the Leicestershire or Yorkshire constabulary. I do not say that one should not renew with Truro as opposed to Scunthorpe. But if you live in Scunthorpe why cannot you renew the licence in Scunthorpe as opposed to having to travel or write to Truro? My suggestion seems sensible and easy. It is the simple solution. The Government have put forward the complicated one. That is all I suggest.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government will have to take that castigation from the noble Earl. I have no doubt that it will not be the worst castigation we receive from him in the next few months. We take a different view on that particular matter.

The remaining amendments in this group introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, raise a similar issue. They require the licensing authority, when dealing with an application for the grant or renewal of a personal licence, or some issue relating to the continuation of the licence, to refer the issue to the police force for the area in which the individual concerned is living. Members of the Committee will appreciate from my earlier remarks that the effect of Clause 115(2) will generally already be the position. Where an applicant is, at the time of the application, living outside the United Kingdom, these amendments will put the licensing authority dealing with his or her application in some difficulty. It would mean that the local authority would have to deal with a foreign police force.

The more sensible procedure—the one laid down by the Bill as drafted for cases such as these—is that the licensing authority should refer the application to its own local police force so that it can be responsible for pursuing any necessary inquiries on a police to police basis. Generally, I do not believe that licensing and local authorities would welcome such an obligation; namely, to contact police forces which may be a considerable distance away or potentially outside the United Kingdom.

I do not believe that these amendments will improve the Bill. It might be argued that Amendment No. 405 caters for the case in which someone holds a personal licence from one licensing authority, moves to a different part of the country and commits an offence. This is a judgment on balance. We recognise that there is not much between us on these issues, and we believe that it is best to have a clear relationship between one licensing authority, one personal licence holder and one police force. If authorities have to deal with a

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whole range of police forces, it will be a recipe for confusion and there will be a risk of a breakdown in communication. It is better that police forces communicate with each other using the well-established channels for that purpose, than that local authorities take on that particular burden. It is on that basis that I hope noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

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