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Lord Cobbold: My Lords, I hear what the Minister says, but she has not answered my question about frivolous delaying tactics at the second stage. She stated, correctly, that frivolous applications could be stopped at the first hearing, but there seems no method for preventing frivolous applications and appeals under the provisions. However, I am not prepared to press the point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 238 to 247 not moved.]

Clause 178 [Hearings]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 248:

( ) prescribe the period within which an application, in relation to which a hearing has been held, must be determined or any other step in the procedure must be taken"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 180 [Provision of information]:

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 248A:

    Page 99, line 43, at end insert ", or

(c) to an interested party to enable them to make relevant representations,
but nothing in this subsection shall authorise a licensing authority or responsible authority to disclose matters of commercial confidentiality"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move Amendment No. 248A again on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville. It concerns a situation where a responsible authority or the licensing authority becomes aware of information that may threaten the well-being or harm the safety of individuals where it may have an obligation to make information available to those likely to be affected. That was held in the case of Guerra v. Italy, which was discussed on an earlier occasion.

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The Bill, as drafted, prevents the licensing authority from complying with that obligation. The amendment removes the offending clause and allows the licensing authority and the responsible party to consider whether in all the circumstances that disclosure is necessary.

I refer back to the discussion in Committee between the noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, on the subject of disclosure of information from licensing premises. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, sought to distinguish the decision in Guerra v. Italy, on the grounds that the polluter was a chemical factory and therefore of greater risk to residents than licensed premises.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, may be right about that or he may be wrong; it all depends on the facts in question. In the absence of Clause 180(3), the licensing authorities and the courts would have to balance the data protection and privacy issues with the issues relating to the right to receive information on issues that may cause harm. The problem with Clause 180(3) is that it prevents the licensing authority and the courts from carrying out this balancing task. Therefore, we believe it is unsatisfactory to have the clause in the Bill in Convention terms.

It is questionable for the Minister to argue, as he did, that licensing premises do not cause problems that can damage health. The possibility that that might occur is implicit in the Bill. For example, in Clause 13(4)(d) local authorities are given powers to object in pursuit of statutory functions relating to,

    "minimising or preventing the risk of pollution of the environment or of harm to human health".

If a local authority were to find that there was harm to human health, it would be difficult to argue convincingly that the principles in Guerra v. Italy do not apply.

Perhaps I may say that in Committee the Minister seemed unaware of the way in which the Strasbourg courts have used the judgment in Guerra and subsequent cases. Since then, I hope that he has taken the opportunity to bring himself up-to-date on the issue. It is not an isolated case; it is a case that established the principle that public authorities have duties to collect and disseminate information on environmental pollution that can affect the amenities of people who live in their midst. It has been quoted approvingly, for example, in Lopez Ostra v. Spain and in Hatton and others v. UK. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for moving the amendment. As he said, we had a fairly thorough discussion of the matter in Committee, but I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and, I imagine, the noble Lord himself are dissatisfied with the response. We are not convinced either by the representations made at that time or by the arguments presented on this occasion.

Clause 180 provides that information held by licensing authorities and responsible authorities for the purposes of the Bill may be shared with other licensing authorities or responsible authorities, where

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necessary, to enable the discharging of their functions under the Bill. I do not think anyone would disagree that it is perfectly reasonable that licensing authorities and bodies such as the police, fire authority and health and safety bodies should be able to share such information for such purposes.

What would not be reasonable—this is the case that the Government argued in Committee—is the removal of the protections for licence holders, applicants and other individuals without which they could not know which other organisations or individuals had been passed their confidential information or data, and for what purpose. That is particularly acute in relation to personal data where, as noble Lords will know, the Data Protection Act makes specific provision on disclosure. It would be wrong for us to seek in the Bill to override those provisions. Applicants provide information for the purposes of the Bill and it is to be used for those purposes only.

Clause 180 provides the right level of protection because, in discharging licensing functions or its functions as a responsible authority, the licensing authority or responsible authority may well have in its possession information to which issues of confidentiality and so on will attach. And of course information relating to licences and notices issued by licensing authorities will be kept on a register which all licensing authorities are required to maintain and this information will be accessible to the public. For those reasons, I ask that these amendments are not pressed. There are excellent reasons why the clause is necessary.

I understand the main concern behind these amendments is a concern that the clause will endanger powers under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Local Government Act 2000, which allow information about crime and disorder and environmental issues—to which the noble Lord made specific reference—to be shared and that that would be incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was an issue much raised in Committee. I offer the noble Lord the comment that we have thought seriously about these issues since Committee. I give a strong assurance that that is not the case. There is nothing here which is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Clause 180 relates to information collected specifically for the purposes of the licensing regime by licensing authorities. The types of information relating to crime and disorder and to environmental matters—which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has in mind, and are issues to which he referred in Committee, and of course the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has reflected those anxieties today—are rightly available to interested parties under the 1998 Act. The provisions of the 1998 Act similarly provide a gateway for the sharing of information which enables the holders of information to provide it to others in accordance with that Act. The provisions in the Bill relate to its scope; they do not affect the provisions in the 1998 Act.

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The noble Lord will know that my noble friend the Minister has signed the Bill to the effect that it is compatible with the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights; and Clause 180 is so compatible. That is the reassurance that I give.

I recognise that the noble Lord has raised some very important points. The Government's contention is that we are dealing with a very restricted area of information for specific purposes. It is within that framework that the restrictions apply. I hope he will recognise the reasonableness of the Government's case and feels able on behalf of the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, once again I am obliged to withdraw the amendment because I am not able to consult with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, regarding the Minister's answer. There did not seem to be anything in his reply, so far as I could make out, to enable this balancing of two conflicting requirements that I mentioned when introducing the amendment.

I specifically acknowledged that there were data protection implications and other requirements of confidentiality that had to be observed, but that the amendment was designed to allow those to be weighed against the freedom of information requirements which would otherwise have applied if there had not been, for example, the Data Protection Act.

I need to take the matter away and discuss it again with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, in order that we can decide with the benefit of the advice—and particularly in the light of considerations that go to the heart of the Human Rights Act—whether we need to bring the amendment back at another stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 249 not moved.]

7 p.m.

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 249A:

    After Clause 180, insert the following new clause—

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