Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her full response. Clearly we still disagree with her on a number of issues. I thought I made it clear that in our view the amendment would not result in piecemeal provision, as the Government had stated in Committee. Clearly the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, believes that it would do so. We disagree on that. She also repeated the argument made in Committee that the amendment would mean that the Bill would not apply to casinos and bingo clubs. As we have said again this evening, the criteria and safeguards set out in the Bill already apply to gaming establishments, because they arise from the application of the provisions of the Gaming Act 1968. They have to be considered at each annual renewal by magistrates of a gaming licence.

There are other issues on which it would not be sensible for me to repeat my arguments without repeating all that I said when moving the amendment. We clearly differ on some issues. I hope that before Third Reading the Minister will consider again some of the points that we have raised in Committee and this evening. In turn, I shall take away her point about disorderly conduct and children. That is an important issue that I should like to consider further. I also entirely agree with her that a fee of £100 to £500 sounds like an attractive improvement on £7,950. Again, I shall defer to those in the industry, who are better placed to respond to what the Minister has said.

I thank the Minister for her response. I ask her to consider again the case that has been made, given that the Government have promised a new gaming Act. We understand that it is impossible to give an accurate timescale for when that will be introduced. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 231A:



"(h) at a garden fete or other event of a similar character promoted for purposes other than private gain at which fewer than 500 people are to be present at the same time"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, fetes could be the issue that got away. A lot of helpful amendments have been tabled to the Bill, but the one issue that came up on Second Reading that was not aired in Committee was fetes. In case anybody thinks that this is a minor

4 Mar 2003 : Column 751

matter, I calculate that there must be about 50,000 fetes a year in England and Wales—charitable fetes, fundraising fetes and fun fetes. I have no idea what licence fee is being contemplated, but if fetes stay within the ambit of the licensing system, a fee of £100 would represent a total of £5 million of licence fee expenditure. The more important point in many ways is the bureaucratic burden that would be imposed on thousands of tiny organisations that put these annual fetes together on a wing and a prayer. Many of them would get it wrong.

I am sure I do not need to labour the place of the fete in village life. It is almost a symbol of a certain way of life. It represents all the things that we are trying to preserve in society: jolly harmlessness, the communality that is so often under attack or missing; and inclusiveness. They are all-embracing, amateur, joyful occasions. I suspect and hope that the Government may not have intended that these events should be part of the regulatory framework of the Bill. I have heard many times and believed the statement that this is a deregulatory measure. We need to have regard to the importance of the role of fetes in our lives.

There is wide support for the amendment in principle, although there is wide ignorance of the fact that fetes will be caught up in the tentacles of the Bill. From those who have been made aware of the fact that they currently fall within the Bill, one gets a unanimous and pretty fierce response. The Churches have expressed that to me. Perhaps they have written to the Minister. The Charity Finance Directors' Group has just woken up to the issue. They may have written as well. I am not sure.

I hope that my drafting is simple and straightforward. "Garden fete" is used in Schedule 1 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. I cannot be certain that these fetes are not part of the current licensing framework, because the 1982 Act provides that local authorities can opt out of the need to have licences for such events. Nobody ever gets a licence in my part of the world, so Suffolk has certainly opted out. I suspect that licensing authorities have opted out all round the country. I should be interested and surprised if it were otherwise.

I have included a provision that in order for a fete to be exempt it must be promoted for purposes other than private gain. That is borrowed from Clause 172. I have also suggested that there should be fewer than 500 people present at the same time. That is borrowed from Clause 98. I hope that the purport is clear and that there is ample justification for allowing the amendment in principle, if not with the words that I have used. I beg to move.

Lord Cobbold: My Lords, I support the amendment. I shall not be able to express the issues any better than the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. I think his figure of 500 is arbitrary. Given the type of event, there would be nobody counting the people. However, in principle, the size is about right.

4 Mar 2003 : Column 752

In passing, I noticed that the clause exempts royal palaces. That answers an earlier question about whether the recent Jubilee concert would have had to be licensed under the Bill. Clearly it would not.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I also support the amendment. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, that there is a question mark over the figure of 500. I have ringed it and thought about it and my feeling is that, sadly, it would be unusual today to attract more than 500 people to a garden fete or similar event. A few years ago, more people might have turned up, but 500 is a reasonable number. A number has to be set and 500 is about right. It would be otiose to say any more than the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has already said on this sensible and fair amendment.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government are prepared to consider the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, has raised, but we have some concerns that will have to be addressed. First, the amendment would exempt from the licensing regime all licensable activities carried on at garden fetes or similar events, including the sale of alcohol. I did not believe that to be the noble Lord's intention—I hope I am right in that. I thought that the purpose of his amendment was to raise issues about regulated entertainment that are more properly considered under Schedule 1, as he said. If I am not right, while we are prepared to consider the case for regulated entertainment, the Government would oppose any exemption for the sale of alcohol.

I should perhaps remind the House that the provision of public entertainment at garden fetes is already covered by existing legislation. Within Greater London, entertainment carried on at such events is licensable. Outside Greater London, the position depends on whether individual local authorities have chosen to adopt the relevant provisions of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, to which the noble Lord referred, and whether they have made any relevant by-laws. There are also provisions in the Private Places of Entertainment (Licensing) Act 1967, which is another area where local authorities can resolve to apply its provisions in respect of entertainment.

Nevertheless, I understand that the local authority in whose area of responsibility the garden fe te run by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, takes place—namely Suffolk—has not adopted the relevant legislation or made any by-laws. So I can quite see that, from his point of view, the requirement to obtain a licence under the Bill for an activity that he carries on now without a licence would represent an extension of regulation. We want to avoid that. Nevertheless, as he is obviously aware, the potential for regulation already exists.

A further concern relates to what we would mean by a garden fete. The noble Lord will not be surprised to hear me say that. Unfortunately, there is no definitive case law on the point, and the small number of cases that have been decided by the courts give an unclear and contradictory picture. One case concluded that a

4 Mar 2003 : Column 753

jazz and beer festival fell within the meaning of "fete". Another took a much narrower and probably more sensible approach by referring to the sale of cakes, old clothes, locally grown fruit and vegetables, and perhaps games such as guessing the length of a phenomenally long runner bean. The point is that the concept of a fete is somewhat nebulous.

On a related point, we are also concerned that unless we get the definition and any relevant parameters right, we might end up allowing some potentially quite large events—such as the jazz and beer festival to which I referred—to fall through the cracks. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, recognises that and has sought to address it through the application of an upper limit. We will consider that as part of our further consideration.

I will ensure that the noble Lord is involved in further thinking about this, although he will appreciate that any amendments to the Bill may have to be introduced in another place. However, that does not in any way preclude us from involving him in the discussions that now need to take place. In the light of that, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page