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Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I and other Members of the Committee have done our best to be co-operative in order to enable us to finish the Bill today. It is not for me to say, but I am not sure that being dismissive of arguments produced from the Opposition Benches at this hour is a sensible policy for the Government to adopt. It is their Bill; I just remark on it.

In particular, the Minister treated my amendments as though they verged on the juvenile. I was extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for her intervention. Against that background there was a touch of Gruyere about his own arguments. He said that it would be inconvenient for people to have to tell the licensing authority where they had been because of the risk that a licensing authority might not be sufficiently intelligent, if there was anything that was questionable, to take the trouble to investigate it. On the other hand, he is prepared to let through the fact that someone may have been in charge of what the noble Baroness referred to as a "less than good house", which would work against that person—in terms of the common weal—when he came to have his licence renewed. If a person is not obliged to make any reference to a role, there is no reason to suppose that the licensing authority will ever know that he actually had it.

I do not say that my argument overrides that of the Minister, but I do not think his argument overrides ours by a sufficient margin for him to be as dismissive as he was of the amendments that we have tabled. It may well be that it is the hour that makes one slightly testy, but we have been doing our best to help throughout the day. For the purposes of the debate I shall ask leave to withdraw the amendment. However, I think that we may make more progress in the next half an hour if there is a greater willingness to see some virtue in the amendments being moved from this side. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 115 agreed to.

16 Jan 2003 : Column 417

Clause 116 [Individual permitted to hold only one personal licence]:

[Amendment No. 381 not moved.]

Clause 116 agreed to.

Clause 117 agreed to.

Clause 118 [Determination of application for grant]:

[Amendments Nos. 382 to 388 not moved.]

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 389:


    Page 65, line 3, leave out subsections (5) and (6) and insert—


"( ) An authorised officer of the licensing authority to whom the application is made or the chief officer of police may object to the granting of a personal licence by giving the licensing authority a notice ("an objection notice")."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 389, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 392. Under Clause 118 only the police have any right of objection to the grant of a personal licence. Their right to object arises only where the applicant has been convicted of a "relevant offence" and the chief officer of police is satisfied that granting a licence would undermine the crime prevention objective. The amendments are designed to enable the licensing authority itself—although not other "interested parties"—to raise an objection to the granting of a personal licence, so that a hearing would be held at which the merits of the application could be fairly considered.

I give one example, which I suppose goes back to what we were discussing in the previous group of amendments. Once upon a time, rather more than 40 years ago, I was responsible for creating the headhunting industry in the United Kingdom. I am gratified that an acorn has become an oak in the ensuing 40 years. It was reasonably commonplace for individuals, especially at lower levels of businesses, to falsify their curricula vitae. There is no reason why the police would know that that had happened, but it is potentially dangerous not to have such a matter investigated, especially as a personal licence is what it says and inaccuracy threatens to infect the system. I do not want to make too much of the matter, but I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful that it is the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, moving this amendment, because that gives me the chance to repair the damage done on the previous set. I responded in the way that I did simply because I considered that one amendment lacked judgment on the question of fairness for the individual concerned. We were clashing less on technical issues than on a judgment of fairness and how the process would work. We have carefully thought through the issues and I was merely defending our stance on what we considered fair to the individuals concerned.

However, this amendment covers a much more technical aspect, as the noble Lord will recognise. I hope that he appreciates that we are seeking through Clauses 118, 119 and 122 a much more straightforward and less bureaucratic structure to obtain a personal

16 Jan 2003 : Column 418

licence. The clauses also provide a safeguard to ensure that applications from those with a criminal past are properly considered by the police with a real power of objection.

The Bill sets out three absolute requirements and one trigger for closer examination: a past conviction for a relevant offence. The amendments would make the position a great deal more complicated, put more obstacles in the way of honest licensees and create considerably more bureaucracy. Amendments Nos. 389 and 390 give power for a licensing authority officer to object to the issuing of a personal licence. Coupled with a requirement for a hearing in the case of all such objections, that would open the way for some licensing authorities to interfere outside their area of expertise and, perhaps, frustrate the intention behind the Bill. The police are the experts on crime prevention matters, not local authorities, who will be the licensing authority. That is why we seek to ensure that the triggers in the Bill relate to the activity of police, not the licensing authority itself. On the basis of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I have no difficulty in recognising that a police matter is for the police. I do not seek to argue that white is black or black is white. However, the fact remains that inspectors, especially, in local authorities form clear views about a whole host of people who are engaged in the licensed trade. We have to a degree debated this before, but that information will go for nothing under the Bill, potentially to the detriment of the trade. The Government may argue that we need not concern ourselves with the state of the trade under the Bill, and that that advantage should be dispensed with. We know the hour; I shall not press the matter further. I thank the Minister for his opening remarks and the poultice that he applied to our previous debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 390 not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 391:


    Page 65, line 12, at end insert "subject to such conditions as the authority thinks fit having regard to the licensing qualification possessed by the applicant"

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 391, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 394, 399, 401 and 410. I hope that I shall please the Committee by being incredibly brief.

There is a world of difference between the retail sale of alcohol at a small corner shop and running a nightclub attended by hundreds of people at which the manager must supervise numerous employees selling alcohol in various parts of the club. The Bill makes no distinction between those extremes for the purposes of a personal licence. There should be scope to grant

16 Jan 2003 : Column 419

personal licences subject to conditions depending on the licensing qualifications held by the applicant for a licence. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the way in which she moved the amendments.

The amendments would give licensing authorities the discretion to attach conditions to personal licences. Under the terms of the Bill, the licensing authority's responsibility is relatively straightforward: it must satisfy itself that the applicant meets the prescribed qualifications. If the applicant has relevant convictions and the police object to the issue of a personal licence, the authority must consider those objections also. If the authority is satisfied that an applicant passes the required threshold, it will grant the licence; if not, it will refuse the licence. That is how the Bill is, and that is how it should remain.

The stipulation of added qualifications would vastly increase the bureaucracy and would complicate matters significantly. We must be clear about what we are discussing: there is an important distinction between personal and premises licences. It is right that premises licences should be subject to conditions set by the licensing authority. Those conditions define how the supply of alcohol is to be conducted. There is no need to overlay that system with a further set of conditions attached to personal licences. On that basis, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his reply, but I found it extraordinary. If I were managing a small corner shop and a large, popular nightclub, I would demand of the individuals—never mind the premises—different qualifications with regard to their ability to perform the relevant functions. It would make sense for there to be some additional training or a requirement for more qualifications for somebody who will have the enormously responsible task of managing a nightclub.

The hour is late, and we have worked hard today. I will not detain the Committee any longer than is necessary. I shall examine in Hansard what the Minister said, but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 392 to 394 not moved.]

Clause 118 agreed to.

Clause 119 [Determination of application for renewal]:

[Amendments Nos. 395 to 401 not moved.]

Clause 119 agreed to.

Clause 120 [Notification of determinations]:

[Amendments Nos. 402 and 403 not moved.]

Clause 120 agreed to.

16 Jan 2003 : Column 420

Clause 121 [Duty to notify licensing authority of convictions during application period]:

[Amendment No. 404 not moved.]

Clause 121 agreed to.

Clause 122 [Convictions coming to light after grant or renewal]:

[Amendments Nos. 405 to 409 not moved.]

Clause 122 agreed to.

Clause 123 [Form of personal licence]:

[Amendment No. 410 not moved.]

Clause 123 agreed to.

Clauses 124 to 126 agreed to.

Clause 127 [Forfeiture or suspension of licence on conviction for relevant offence]:

[Amendments Nos. 411 and 412 not moved.]

Clause 127 agreed to.

Clause 128 agreed to.

Clause 129 [Court's duty to notify licensing authority of convictions]:

[Amendment No. 413 not moved.]

Clause 129 agreed to.

Clause 130 [Licence holder's duty to notify licensing authority of convictions]:

[Amendment No. 414 not moved.]

Clause 130 agreed to.

Clause 131 agreed to.

Clause 132 [Licensing authority's duty to update licence document]:

[Amendment No. 414A not moved.]

Clause 132 agreed to.

Clause 133 [Licence holder's duty to produce licence]:

[Amendments Nos. 415 and 416 not moved.]

Clause 133 agreed to.

Clauses 134 to 136 agreed to.

Clause 137 [Defence of due diligence]:


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