Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I certainly agree that subsection (3) is written in legislative language—what you might call hieratic rather than demotic speech. However, if I am wrong about its meaning, I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Monson. But I am sure that I understand exactly what it means.

20 Jan 2003 : Column 442

Clause 158 agreed to.

Clauses 159 to 163 agreed to.

Clause 164 [Review of premises licence following closure order]:

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 427A:

    Page 89, line 31, at beginning insert "Upon the application of either the responsible senior police officer or the holder of the premises licence"

The noble Lord said: This is a short and simple probing amendment. We seek to test the Government's opinion on subsection (2) of Clause 164. We should like to insert at the beginning of subsection (2) the words,

    "Upon the application of either the responsible senior police officer or the holder of the premises licence".

As I say, the purpose of the amendment is to test the Government's thinking as regards who would initiate a review of the premises licence. At present subsection (2) states:

    "The relevant licensing authority must review the premises licence".

It gives no indication of the circumstances under which such a review would be initiated. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I hope that I can help. Under the Bill as it stands there is a straightforward sequence of events. The police make a closure order. The appropriate magistrates' court then considers the order and any extension of it. The court has to decide whether the closure order should be revoked, whether the premises should stay closed—in other words, the order should be confirmed—until the authority has reviewed its licence order, or make a similar order unless specified conditions are satisfied. The court could state that the premises should stay closed or could open subject to certain conditions. In either of those cases the authority has to carry out a review.

The point of the review is to decide, in the light of the circumstances which gave rise to the closure order in the first place and any other relevant history, whether the authority needs to take any action in relation to the licence; for example, by adding a condition relating to door supervision or by revoking it. The review will not just consider the circumstances which gave rise to the closure on a single night. The review may look at the history of the licence since it was issued and consider any matter which is relevant to the promotion of the licensing objectives. There may have been a steady build-up of problems which came to a head on the night of the closure. Those would be important considerations for the licensing authority and the matters should be addressed whether or not the police or the licence holder want them to be. The licensing authority's role is to promote the licensing objectives.

If the court decides that the premises should stay closed for the time being, the licence holder will, of course, want the authority to carry out a review. The effect of the Bill is that the premises will stay closed until such a review has taken place. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, will consider that that is right. I also acknowledge that, if the police have

20 Jan 2003 : Column 443

concerns about the continuation of the licence as it stood before the closure order was made—in other words, if there are more long-standing problems—they too will want the authority to review that licence. But I do not think that that adds up to a case for accepting this amendment. Indeed, I do not think that that was the intention. If taken literally, the amendment would add to the bureaucracy of the licensing scheme. Under the Bill as drafted the authority has to undertake a review and reach a decision on the licence within 28 days. Under the amendment, someone has to write an extra letter seeking a review. I hope that that explanation is satisfactory.

Lord Redesdale: I thank the noble Lord for that reply. I accept his definition. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 164 agreed to.

Clauses 165 to 168 agreed to.

Clause 169 [Relaxation of opening hours for special occasions]:

3.30 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 428:

    Page 93, line 40, at end insert—

"( ) Where the local licensing authority considers that a period ("the celebration period") marks an occasion of exceptional local significance, it may make a licensing hours order."

The noble Lord said: Clause 169 permits a relaxation of opening hours only by the Secretary of State. Where such relaxation is justified by an occasion of exceptional local significance, the amendment argues that the power should be exercisable by the local authority as the licensing authority.

I should like to give an example local to my own experience. My wife and I live within three miles of the tallest maypole in the country. The village in vicinity celebrates that record on May Day. Alcohol always enlivens the dancing, which in that particular context goes back centuries. I do not suggest that we are given to Saturnalia in rural Wiltshire, but it is a proper celebration. It is an annual event, so it is not exceptional in terms of chronology, but it will be exceptional until some other village or community erects a taller maypole.

I realise that, as with New Year, the annual nature of the event might give rise to an annual dispensation, but in other regards it seems that such a matter could frankly be left to the local authority. I beg to move.

20 Jan 2003 : Column 444

Lord Redesdale: I rise to support the amendment, as it gives a degree of flexibility for a very local event.

Baroness Buscombe: I also rise to support the amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham: The amendment has been presented with the noble Lord's customary affability. I recognise the strength of the case, but we seek to resist the amendment.

I think that the noble Lord's illustration applies to a place of fairly modest population. The likelihood is that, across the length and breadth of our country, a very large number of small local communities have good cause for celebration at least once a year. On a range of occasions not as frequent as once a year, local opinion may feel that a celebration merits an extension of the licence. The result would be very significant inconsistencies across the country, in terms of the application of licensing hours orders. As the noble Lord clearly recognised, the clause already provides that the Secretary of State can make allowance for an exceptional event in a locality.

Although the main thrust of the Bill is deregulatory, it is important to maintain some consistency in the way in which licensing authorities administer the new regime. Despite the noble Lord's strong presentation of the case, we feel that there is sufficient flexibility in how the Secretary of State operates dispensation for local celebrations of significance.

The key point is that Parliament must always have to approve some relaxations, because the order may be made only by an affirmative resolution. Relaxing hours in London would raise significant issues for the Metropolitan Police. Therefore, we think that the proper forum for such decisions is Parliament. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise the strength of that case.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his reply. Curiously, the note that he read out at the end of his speech—it was delivered to him during the course of it—appeared to belie the rest of his answer. The previous stance, which he adopted until dispatches arrived from elsewhere in the Chamber, implied that there were any number of events of particular local significance and that it would be quite wrong to take the privilege of looking after them away from the Secretary of State. The Minister did not use precisely those words, and produced other arguments in relation to that point. He now tells us that any such order actually requires endorsement by Parliament.

If that is the case, the Minister has reinforced our argument. It would seem extraordinary if every event such as that involving the maypole that I described required an order. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, indicated that the problem would apply to many other small local events, but the Minister himself corroborated that parliamentary action would be required on every occasion.

20 Jan 2003 : Column 445

Before I agree to withdraw the amendment, it would be prudent to give the Minister a second chance to respond when he has got his ducks in a row, which happens to be peculiarly apposite in relation to my maypole example.

Lord Davies of Oldham: How could I resist such an invitation? However, I am a cricketer, so getting ducks in a row is not always as attractive to me in those terms as it is in terms of shooting.

Let me re-emphasise what I sought to point out in my earlier argument. I commented on the small population of the area to which the noble Lord made reference. He also said that an annual dispensation might be required. We are talking about a limited community, and we have a very large number of limited communities across the country. If the amendment were agreed to, the dispensations that would go on would be legion. They would be such as to transform the nature of the Bill. For that reason, I sought to emphasise that we needed some consistency across the country.

I also emphasised that such consistency would be subject to the decision of the Secretary of State, and an affirmative order would be required for emendations to the Bill. The House will have seen such orders on the likes of New Year's Day and, of course, last year's Golden Jubilee. They are exceptional circumstances. That is the position at present, which I am seeking to sustain within the framework of the Bill.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page