Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, greater checks need to be made to ensure that passport applications are genuine, and that is already happening. The same applies to driving licence

4 Mar 2003 : Column 708

applications. Those countersigning an application need to make an attestation. If it is false, that constitutes a criminal offence. However, we need to go further and consider—as we are doing—whether using someone's identity should be made a criminal offence. That was one of the matters on which we consulted in the document that I mentioned in answering the noble Baroness's Question.

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (Codes B to E) Order 2003

3.14 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton rose to move, That the proceedings of Monday 24th February be vacated.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I should like briefly to explain why this Motion is necessary. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (Codes B to E) Order 2003 was laid before the House on 30th January and approved on 24th February. With approval in another place, the order would have brought into effect from 1st April 2003 revised codes of practice in connection with the exercise of certain police powers. Four draft codes of practice were laid before the House on 28th January. However, we now know that, due to an administrative error, one of the codes was incomplete. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, drew that point to the attention of the House, for which I thank him. The Motion passed last Monday also referred in error to the order as a draft rather than a made order.

Fresh versions of the draft codes were laid before the House on 26th February. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (Codes B to E) (No. 2) Order 2003 was laid before the House on 27th February. I think that the right thing to do is to ask the House to approve the order again. However, before I can ask the House to approve that order, it is first necessary to revoke the order laid on 30th January. I apologise for the error. I beg to move.

Moved, That the proceedings of Monday 24th February be vacated.—(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

Lord Renton: My Lords, although I am in my 58th year in Parliament, may I confess my ignorance in being unable to understand how proceedings are vacated in accordance with the Motion? Can the Minister explain what "vacated" really means in this context?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it means annulled. I am doing this because I cannot ask the House to approve an order that it has already approved. I am withdrawing the order that the House, because of the missing pages, approved before it had a proper opportunity to consider it. Once the House has agreed to the annulment of that order, I can again move that the order be considered.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

4 Mar 2003 : Column 709

Licensing Bill [HL]

3.17 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 193:


    After Clause 111, insert the following new clause—


"MEANING OF "SERIOUS OFFENCE"
(1) In this Part "serious offence" means a relevant offence to which subsection (2) applies and in respect of which a custodial sentence of at least 30 months was imposed.
(2) The relevant offences to which this subsection applies are—
(a) any sexual offence, within the meaning of section 161(2) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6) (interpretation),
(b) any violent offence, within the meaning of section 161(3) of that Act,
(c) any relevant offence under the Theft Act 1968 (c. 60) or the Theft Act 1978 (c. 31), and
(d) any relevant offence under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 (c. 45).
(3) In subsection (2) "custodial sentence" has the same meaning as in section 76 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6) (meaning of "custodial sentence")."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 193, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 195, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215 and 216.

These amendments all relate to a very important aspect of the Bill—applications for a personal licence from individuals with convictions for serious offences. Clause 118 makes various provisions as regards an application for a personal licence. A licensing authority must grant the application if the applicant is 18 or over; he possesses the relevant qualification; no personal licence previously held by him has been forfeited in the previous five years; and he has not been convicted of any relevant offence or foreign offence. If those conditions are satisfied, the licensing authority must grant the application; there is no discretion in the matter. That is the case even if the chief officer of police is satisfied that the granting of the licence would undermine the crime prevention objective. As we said quite strenuously in Committee, that cannot be right.

If the chief officer is satisfied that the granting of the licence would undermine the crime prevention objective, we on this side of the House feel that it is absolutely essential that the licensing authority should consider the chief officer's view. The licensing authority can always reject his views, but, at the very least, it should consider them. The chief officer must therefore be given notice of any application for a personal licence so that he can then form a view as to whether the granting of a licence would undermine the crime prevention objective.

4 Mar 2003 : Column 710

We also believe that if an applicant for, or the holder of, a personal licence is convicted of a serious offence, the application for a personal licence should be dismissed or the personal licence forfeited. The Bill as presently drafted merely provides that where the applicant or the holder of a personal licence is convicted of a relevant offence, which would include a serious offence, the licensing authority must notify the chief officer of police, who then has to form a view as to whether the granting or continuation of the licence would undermine the crime prevention objective. If he forms that view he must give the authority an objection notice, which would then be considered by the licensing authority.

For serious offences, the application for a personal licence should be dismissed or the personal licence forfeited. As to what we mean by a serious offence, we have had regard to Clause 112(2) and (3). Those subsections make a distinction as regards certain specific offences. Those are any sexual offence, any violent offence, and any relevant offence under the Theft Act 1968 or the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. The distinction that those two subsections make is between convictions where the offender is sentenced to either more or less than 30 months in prison.

As the Bill is drafted, if the applicant for a personal licence is convicted of such an offence but not sentenced to more than 30 months, that conviction is disregarded and, if all the other conditions are satisfied, the licensing authority must grant the application. As we said in Committee, we find that extraordinary. If an applicant is convicted of one of the specific offences, at the very least the chief officer of police should be entitled to object. If a sentence of more than 30 months is imposed, we believe that the application should be dismissed. We see no justification whatever for the view that someone convicted of such a serious offence and sentenced to more than 30 months' imprisonment should be a suitable person to hold a personal licence.

Noble Lords will notice from the third Marshalled List that clear progress has been made since we debated the matter in Committee. We are very pleased that the Government are to support Amendment No. 195, which concedes that the police should have the discretion to form a view in the event that the applicant for a personal licence has been convicted of a "relevant offence" that is not spent. We are grateful that the Government have recognised that important measure. On the assumption that Amendment No. 195, to which the Minister has added her name, is agreed to, our Amendment No. 193 is unnecessary.

I shall deal briefly with Amendment No. 202. It covers a slightly different but very important point. It provides a change in the burden of proof where the applicant for or holder of a personal licence has been found guilty of a relevant offence. The burden of proof should be on him to satisfy the authority that the crime prevention objective would not be undermined by the application being granted or the licence not being revoked.

4 Mar 2003 : Column 711

As drafted, the police simply have to be satisfied that granting the licence will not undermine the crime prevention objective. That is not enough. The burden should be on the applicant to convince the police that he or she should be granted a licence. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I support the amendments. Although I added my name to a number of them, I plan to speak only to Amendments Nos. 193 and 195.

The purpose of Amendment No. 193 is to widen the net for those convicted of serious offences, so that a number of different offences not set out in the Bill would be included. On looking at them again, I would have many difficulties with my noble friend Lord Avebury if I were to press it, because it might well impinge on the rights to run premises of offenders who had served their time in prison and been rehabilitated.

As said by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, the Minister has added her name to Amendment No. 195. We believe that it is a compromise that will enhance the Bill rather than detract from it. On that basis, I very much hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, will not press the other amendments but will support Amendment No. 195.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page