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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his detailed reply. I do not have any difficulty with the points he raised. The system could well work in an organic way, growing as he suggested. However, in the slip he made about one simple system or one simple authority, he referred to the situation that we would prefer.

The Minister referred to the possibility of police trying to trace individuals to Newcastle. Such an individual may have made many stops in between and may have been a manager during the 10 years of the period of the licence in many different parts of the country. The noble Lord pointed out that we already accept how we contact the passport office or obtain a driving licence. Those organisations work extremely well. What we suggest would be along those lines.

The last point made by the Minister worried me most. We are creating a system that could be bureaucratic and create a paper chase. It especially concerns me that much of the work, and therefore the expense, will fall on the local authorities. In theory, that expense could be met under the licence fee. The Minister suggested that that might be an objective some time in the future, but we would like it to take place much more swiftly. He said that it might take many years to set up, but a system that involves 300,000 individuals does not need to take such a long time. The information will already be gathered, and it will be a simple case of collecting it from local authorities. If local authorities do not have that information online, I do not understand how the system can work after the transition. On that basis, I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

6.46 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 20) shall be agreed to?

24 Feb 2003 : Column 68

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 143; Not-Contents, 111.

Division No. 3


Aberdare, L.
Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Avebury, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Barker, B.
Bell, L.
Biffen, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Bridges, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buscombe, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Clement-Jones, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Craig of Radley, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Fearn, L.
Feldman, L.
Fookes, B.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Geraint, L.
Goodhart, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hanham, B.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Home, E.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Inglewood, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kimball, L.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Liverpool, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
Ludford, B.
Luke, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mancroft, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Montrose, D.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newby, L.
Newton of Braintree, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Northesk, E.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L. [Teller]
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Rennard, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Russell, E.
Ryder of Wensum, L.
Saatchi, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Sandberg, L.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selborne, E.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sheppard of Didgemere, L.
Shrewsbury, E.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stewartby, L.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wigoder, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Bhatia, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gilbert, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jones, L.
Judd, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Orme, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Pendry, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Radice, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Simon, V.
Skidelsky, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Turnberg, L.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

24 Feb 2003 : Column 69

6.57 p.m.

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 21:

    After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—

(1) There shall be a body corporate to be known as the Central Licensing Authority (in this Act referred to as "the Central Authority").

24 Feb 2003 : Column 70

(2) The functions of the Central Authority shall be—
(a) to act as the licensing authority for personal licences under Part 6 of this Act, and
(b) such other functions as may be conferred on it by an order made by the Secretary of State.
(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about the membership and staff of the Central Authority.
(4) The expenses of the Central Authority shall be paid by the Secretary of State out of money provided by Parliament.
(5) Any order or regulations made under this section shall be made by statutory instrument, and no order or regulations shall be made unless a draft of the order or regulations has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4 [General duties of licensing authorities]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 22:

    Page 3, line 10, at end insert—

"( ) the protection of the amenity of the area;"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 22, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 23. Both amendments seek to tackle the question of "amenity". I am sure that I need not remind noble Lords of the impassioned and thorough debate we had in Committee on the impact of licensed premises on the amenities in the vicinity. There were numerous speeches on both sides of your Lordships' House from those who feared that the Bill as drafted did not sufficiently protect the interests of residents in the community. Discussion of the definition of nuisance led to much frustration. I would not like to say that the debate was fruitless, but we certainly failed to reach any firm conclusions about how to legislate on such an important area as the "quality of life" of communities.

I shall, if I may, state the practicalities of the situation. The industry fears additional regulation and "frivolous" complaints by neighbours. The neighbours fear that a noisy pub will deprive them of much-needed sleep and bring with it all the unsavoury accompaniments of beer-fuelled young people. As we agreed in Committee, given that the balance or test which must be applied is too high, it is not sufficient to allow only one of the four licensing objectives that one could cite in relation to the overall subject matter—that of public nuisance.

What is needed is a balance, which is what I am proposing in Amendment No. 23. I tabled the two amendments to make a point. The first amendment seeks to include,

    "the protection of the amenity of the area",

as a fifth licensing objective. It responds to what I shall call the "residents' lobby"—those who fear the effect of increased trading hours in the licensed premises in their area. Their concerns, I should add, are justified. Despite forecasts and hypotheses, the Government have no idea how the new licensing system will work in practice, as demonstrated by the fact that DEFRA has now retained consultants to discover the impact on areas surrounding pubs, clubs and other such premises. It is a leap into the dark. The protection of amenity must be a licensing objective that the licensing authority must promote while performing its functions.

24 Feb 2003 : Column 71

The second amendment goes further and I think offers more in the way of proportionality and balance. "Amenity" is not just a word that applies to local residents; it can apply equally well to those running a licensed premises. Essentially, the amendment protects both parties in that it seeks to guide the licensing authorities to look for a balance between the best interests of both. It is all very well to propose four licensing objectives and insist that the licensing authorities have regard to them. We believe that the second amendment offers a better idea of how this policy will be implemented in practical terms when the licensing authorities come to make their crucial decision on whether to impose conditions or grant licences.

We have had a conflict of interest throughout our consideration of the Bill. My amendments seek to include in the Bill the need for the licensing authorities to make decisions that offer a compromise and a sensible balance. I beg to move.

7 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, we had a long debate on this matter in Committee. I should like to reiterate a few crucial issues. First, this clause reverberates through the Bill. If we do not get the definition of the licensing objectives right, frankly, nothing else will be right.

Our principal objection is that the apparent protection from public nuisance is not as it would appear to a layman. That is to say, what is or is not a public nuisance as compared with a private nuisance is both highly complex in law and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, constitutes a very high hurdle to jump. I have sought in vain any case of public nuisance that involves merely noise with the exception of the case of R v Shorrock in which a rave was held which brought forth 475 complaints and was heard four miles away. That is the only such case that I have come across or have read about. We are not concerned here about raves or disorderly or anti-social conduct but rather the effects of normal conduct that takes place at abnormal times of day and night. What is perfectly legitimate conduct at 10 or 11 at night becomes at three or four in the morning—particularly in a country area—a disturbance which wakes up light sleepers, the old and the vulnerable. Amendment No. 23, to which I speak, is tabled to enable licensing authorities to take account of that situation.

Unless that change is made, it will not even be open to residents in the immediate vicinity of a pub to raise complaints when a licence is being considered. As I said, the provisions of the clause reverberate throughout the Bill. One has a right of representation only in respect of one of the four licensing objectives. As I sought briefly to explain, that is a high hurdle to jump. As a matter of interest, one of the standard textbooks states:

    "There is perhaps no more impenetrable jungle in the entire law than that which surrounds the word 'nuisance'".

24 Feb 2003 : Column 72

Another textbook states:

    "Nuisance is the least satisfactory department of the law".

To give some indication of the seriousness of public nuisance, it is a criminal and not a civil matter. There is no limit on the fine or imprisonment that can be imposed for a public order offence.

We believe strongly that it is simply inadequate to leave the Bill as it is. It will not protect people who have a reasonable point to make. It will not even trigger the extensive powers which the police have under Clause 158 to close a pub since they can do so only on the basis of a breach of one of the four licensing objectives.

On 17th December the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in responding to the amendment that I moved on that occasion, said that,

    "it would not be appropriate to provide a rigid meaning as to what constitutes a public nuisance".—[Official Report, 17/12/02; col. 560.]

I totally agree. That is why we want to remove the phrase. I believe that the proposed wording of Amendment No. 23 would be understood by the members of a licensing committee, not forgetting that a licensing committee is not composed of magistrates. Its members have no legal exposure, if I can put it that way.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, also said that the Government were about to introduce an anti-social behaviour Bill which would contain powerful measures to prevent anti-social behaviour. However, we do not seek to remedy anti-social behaviour but rather normal social conduct that takes place at abnormal times. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that the Bill as drafted would improve integration in the handling of licensing matters. However, it will do that only if Amendment No. 23 is accepted.

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