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Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I am most grateful to the Minister for his graciousness in saying that he would look at the particular co-operation between Westminster and the police to which I referred. I acknowledge that I was speaking primarily about crime and drugs, an ever-present problem in central London, rather more than about the type of disorder to which he was alluding—perfectly properly in the circumstances—in his response. He has been gracious enough to say that he will look at what I said about Westminster's collaboration with the police. It would be ungracious of me not to say in return that I shall look closely at what he said in reply. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 421 and 422 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 157 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Monson: Is it not the case that the obligation to close will apply automatically to all licensed premises in the area in question, including hotels, so that if there were expected to be a very serious and dangerous demonstration in Piccadilly, for example, the Ritz and the Meridien and so on would be forced to close in addition to ordinary pubs? If I am wrong in this, perhaps the Minister will reassure me on the point.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It sounds like a very good idea to me. However, I cannot think that it is as simple as that. It is up to the police to determine what would be the scope of this power under Clause 157. I think that the definition of "at or near the place of the disorder" could safely be left to the judgment of the police who are in operational charge at the time.

Clause 157 agreed to.

Clause 158 [Closure orders for identified premises]:

[Amendments Nos. 423 to 425 not moved.]

20 Jan 2003 : Column 439

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 426:

    Page 86, line 36, at end insert—

"( ) specify whether the premises must close in its entirety or simply cease the sale of alcohol."

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 426, I shall be touching on a very similar point to that just raised on Clause 157 by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. Amendment No. 426 raises a particularly significant issue. Subsection (4) of Clause 158 states the specifications that must be included in a closure order: the premises to which it relates, the period for which the premises should be closed, the grounds for the closure, and the effects of it. Amendment No. 426 provides an extra specification and is aimed specifically at accommodating supermarkets.

Although it is commendable to amalgamate the current numerous licences into one piece of legislation, I have yet to be persuaded of the effectiveness of this approach. Surely flexibility is the key. If the Bill must cover both the on and the off trade, it needs to ensure that the rules are able to vary in response to the different situations faced by, for example, a Tesco store and an inner-city nightclub.

Closure orders are a pertinent example. A supermarket sells alcohol. Therefore, it could be subject to a closure order under the Bill. Yet, it seems absurd that, whatever the reasons for the suspension of the sale of alcohol, the supermarket could not continue selling anything else but would have to shut down entirely. With the closure of a premises comes the attendant loss of revenue, not to mention, in the specific case of a supermarket, the inconvenience for those relying on the store for their daily needs. Supermarkets receive precious little concession in the Bill. I ask only that we appreciate the need to acknowledge and respond to the off trade. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Williamson of Horton: In rising to support the amendment, I make my customary declaration of interest as a non-executive director of Whitbread plc. It is important to bear in mind that we are considering a variety of different premises—not only the supermarkets, but a whole range of restaurants which may have only a small sale of alcohol. Indeed, at a good many pubs in the country, the sale of food is more important than the sale of alcohol. If, as seems likely in most cases, the closure orders result from problems arising from the misuse of alcohol, it is important that the closure order should state whether it applies to the whole premises or only to those concerned with the sale of alcohol. That would not only give a certain amount of flexibility, but meet the problem outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. In my view, it would also make the whole proposal more logical and more suited to the actual circumstances. This is perhaps not the most important amendment before us. If we were allowed to give it a title, this might be called "the pub with no beer" amendment. None the less, I think that it is necessary

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to take account of the very different circumstances and not to get ourselves in the situation of thinking that we are dealing only with alcohol-selling pubs.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: When I first looked at Amendment No. 426, I was rather attracted to it. Although I was not aware at the time that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, was going to refer particularly to supermarkets, I thought that the idea of allowing, for example, a play to continue in a theatre while closing the bar was quite attractive. Then, however, I looked at what Clause 158 provides and I was persuaded that the amendment was not necessary.

Clause 158 provides that a senior officer can make a closure order in respect of a premises if he believes either that there is, or is likely to be,

    "disorder on, or in the vicinity of and related to, the premises",

which is much more limited than just "the area"; it means "just around"—or that,

    "a public nuisance is being caused by noise",

emanating from the premises.

This power has existed for licensed premises, particularly for those selling alcohol, since implementation of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. The police have found the power very useful as a deterrent although closure orders have been issued on only a handful of occasions. It is possible that a crowd who were inclined to disorder or to making sufficient noise to constitute a public nuisance would be more of a threat if they were allowed to remain together but prevented buying alcohol at a place where they would normally expect to do so. So, if the circumstances are sufficiently serious to require the issuing of a closure order, then, subject to the views of the police, the normal practice must be to close the premises and disperse the crowd. That is what Clause 158 provides.

Let us consider the situation of supermarkets. Is it really likely that there are circumstances in which the police would be able to impose a closure order on premises of that nature as a result of disturbance or disorder emanating directly from those premises? I cannot imagine it. The only such circumstances I can think of are where a crowd of looters are on supermarket premises as a result of an event happening elsewhere. Under those circumstances surely it is right to close the premises completely rather than merely to stop selling alcohol.

I understand the motivation behind the amendment but when one considers the circumstances in which it is likely to be used I do not think that it will apply to supermarkets except in the very extreme circumstances when the provisions of the Bill should apply.

Lord Avebury: When the Government have used the term "the vicinity of" in previous amendments they have been unable to give us any definition except, as the noble Lord has done today, by saying that it is smaller than a locality. Can he give us some practical examples? If one takes, for example, the area between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square—with which many of us are familiar—would the vicinity of establishments there embrace the whole of Leicester

20 Jan 2003 : Column 441

Square and the streets which lead out of Leicester Square towards Soho? It would help the Committee to have some idea of the dimensions of the vicinity.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: But the Bill does not just use the term "vicinity". It states,

    "in the vicinity of and related to, the premises".

Therefore, it is clear that the vicinity would include the car park or the pub garden rather than the areas mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his reply. He is probably right that the circumstances in which the measure we are discussing could be used would be fairly extreme. That said, in extreme cases there may be a problem in relation to the selling of alcohol. If a large supermarket that is almost the size of a hypermarket is affected, it may seem unnecessary to close the entire premises. However, I appreciate that such a possibility is unlikely.

It is good to have this debate. The amendment indicates the broad spectrum of premises licences that will be affected by the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said, we are discussing hotels and all different kinds of premises. Much of our debate to date has focused on the pub trade as opposed to off trade. It has been worth airing this matter. I shall revert to those involved in the supermarket trade who have held discussions with us to ensure that they are happy with the Minister's response. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 427 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 158 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Monson: Before we leave Clause 158, will the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, assure us that subsection (3) provides adequate protection for a licensee who does everything in his power to run an orderly pub but is overwhelmed by circumstances totally beyond his control? For example, he may be the victim of a vendetta. A business rival or someone else with a grudge against him could telephone the police anonymously every Saturday morning and say, "I hear that there will be a big riot tonight at the Horse and Hounds", or suggest something similar. The police would close down the premises and the licensee would lose a tremendous amount of business. However, the fault would lie entirely with someone else. The licensee would not be to blame. If the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, can assure me that subsection (3) provides adequate protection to a licensee under such circumstances, I should be very grateful.

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