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Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 260:



"ANNUAL REPORT ON THE EFFECTS OF LICENSING POLICY
(1) The Secretary of State shall publish each year a report on the effects of the change in licensing policy introduced under this Act.
(2) In each report under subsection (1) the Secretary of State shall include—
(a) an assessment by the Chief Medical Officer of the public health advantages and disadvantages of alcohol in regard to the licensing policy set out under this Act, including specifically, details of the amount of binge drinking,
(b) an assessment of the impact of the licensing policy on children and young people,
(c) a statement of the number of fixed penalty offences, cautions and convictions for alcohol related offences in the preceding year, together with details of the number of recorded offences under Part 7 of this Act,
(d) evidence from licensing authorities as to whether the new licensing system is cost effective, and
(e) any other information which the Secretary of State sees fit to include."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment would impose on the Secretary of State a duty to produce an annual report detailing the effects of the change in licensing policy proposed in the Bill. In Committee, I spoke to a similar amendment, Amendment No. 446. It proposed an annual report on the effects of licensing policy on public health. I was heartened by many noble Lords' support for that amendment. As my noble friend Lord Hodgson rightly pointed out:


    "We need to monitor the effects of the laws that we pass; otherwise we are working in a vacuum and will have no way of monitoring the effectiveness of our decisions".—[Official Report, 20/1/03; col. 476.]

In response, we were told:


    "The Government take these issues very seriously and we shall continue to monitor them. However, we do not need to set down in primary legislation a requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a report every year on the matters covered by the Bill".—[Official Report, 20/1/03; col. 478.]

I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, on that point. It is the duty of the Government to publish a report detailing the effectiveness of an Act that amounts to a complete overhaul of the laws relating to the licensing of alcohol and entertainment.

I sincerely hope that the new licensing system will work efficiently, especially in the light of the many hours that we have devoted to scrutinising the Bill in your Lordships' House. The Government argue for guidance, rather than regulation, but regulation is not flexible enough to cope with the alterations—foreseen and unforeseen—that may be needed as the system gets off the ground. There may be teething troubles.

I do not wish to sound like a pessimist, but, in the worst possible scenario, there may be fundamental problems in the practical working of the new system. An example of that can be seen in the issue of fees. We have already talked at length about a cost-effective,

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self-financing system. Those representing local government fear that they will not have enough income to sustain the administrative burden of the licensing system. They would prefer the introduction of local variables in fees. The Government have insisted that fees be set centrally, and we agree with that. However, we must know whether that aspect of the Bill will place vast financial pressure on local authorities, as they fear.

We must know whether alcohol-related crime soars; whether binge-drinking escalates or diminishes; whether the policy on children provides adequate protection; and whether local transport and cleaning services can cope with later licensing hours. Essentially, we must know whether the new system works. We should remember that the last Licensing Act was passed in 1964, and we have been—if I can put it this way—stuck with it for a long time. The same situation could apply with this law.

If the Government's only reason for opposing the amendment is that they fear the burden of producing such a report—as I fear it is, going by what the noble Lord said in Committee—I am disappointed. Transparency and accountability are at the heart of the amendment. I hope that the Government's opposition to it does not reflect a concern that an annual report might expose the shortcomings of their new licensing system. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said, we had a debate on this in Committee. She is right. I shall reiterate the points about the effects of the Bill.

The Government take seriously all the issues that the noble Baroness raised and will continue to monitor them after the implementation of the new licensing system. Just as the policy was not developed in a vacuum, we would not wish to see it administered and enforced in one. It is important that the effects of alcohol or any potentially dangerous substance on public health are carefully monitored. The Department of Health does that. Along with the Office for National Statistics, it publishes comprehensive statistics on alcohol use and abuse in all sections of the public, including young people. For example, Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people is an annual report on the frequency of drinking, the amount drunk and the types of drink consumed by children and young people. The Home Office does a great deal of work with the Office for National Statistics on the relationship between alcohol and crime.

Any report such as that proposed by the noble Baroness would have to be based on robust criteria showing clearly the link between the data and the licensing system introduced by the Bill, as well as the many other factors that influence behaviour. It is a complex area, and, as I said in Committee, I fail to see how a report that could be of use in those terms could be constructed. To require the Secretary of State in primary legislation, every year for the foreseeable

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future, to produce and publish such a report—much of the contents of which are already published by other departments—is unnecessary.

The amendment would also place an ongoing burden on local authorities and other responsible bodies. The noble Baroness broadened the requirements to include the impact on local authorities. That would create burdens where they are not needed. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. In some ways, I am pleased that the Minister recognises that there are issues that may come to light when the system begins and that there may be teething troubles.

There is a need for flexibility, and I am sorry that the Government do not accept that it would make sense to have some form of annual report. That would allow us properly to review how things are progressing. In our debate on an earlier amendment today, when we discussed the age at which children should be allowed into pubs and clubs, I made the point that we might get it right or we might need to raise the age if there were problems.

There are many issues connected with new alcohol and entertainment licensing laws that we may not even have begun to recognise at this stage. We wish the new system well, but it is regrettable that the Government do not feel it appropriate to have an annual report. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 6 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

[Amendment No. 261 not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 262:


    Page 142, line 14, at end insert—


"( ) After section 55(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8) (meaning of "development" and "new development"), insert—
"(2A) Notwithstanding the provisions of any order or development order or any other provision made under any power under this Act, all premises which are licensed or required to be licensed under the Licensing Act 2003 shall be required to seek planning permission for any material change of use in the premises.""

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 262, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 270 and 271, regarding planning and use class orders.

Ministers have said on many occasions that issues relating to the impact of licensed premises on the amenities and environment of an area should be dealt with through the planning system and should not be addressed through the licensing system. At present, that is not always possible in the planning system. The amendments would ensure that planning controls would apply to all material changes in use in licensed premises and that all the conditions and undertakings to which a licensed premises was subject were transferred into its planning consent, to the extent that they were not transferred into its planning licence. The

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amendments would give practical effect to ministerial wishes for amenity issues to be planning issues, not licensing issues alone.

Planning permission is required for all development in land and buildings that includes material changes of use. In deciding whether to grant planning consent, a planning authority must decide the application,


    "in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise".

Such considerations might include, for example, noise, waste, pollution or the cumulative effect. The planning system does not always work in that way, because not all material changes of use are subject to development control in the planning system. The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 created a new use class—the A3 use class—comprising all uses of premises for the provision of food and drink. That order exempted all premises in the new A3 use class from the requirement to seek planning consent and was, moreover, retrospective.

The argument used at the time by the Government was that controls over the impact of a premises on the amenities of the area could and should be dealt with through the licensing system and not through the planning system. Therefore, a change from restaurant to bar does not require planning consent, nor does an increase in hours or numbers. The Licensing Bill and, in particular, the guidance will sweep away the ability of local licensing authorities to take into account material changes of use at licensed premises and the body of licensing conditions and undertakings that exist with respect to existing premises.

The effect will be that there will be no planning or licensing control over the impact of a licensed premises on the amenity of an area, except in the case of new premises, which will have to apply for planning consent. Crucially, there will be no control over the impact on local amenities of decisions by existing premises to extend their hours, increase their capacities or switch from low to high intensity uses. Planning authorities will become far more cautious about granting planning consent and development will be constrained. We have returned repeatedly to this concern during the passage of the Bill. We do not want to see a situation arising where the industry puts forward plans but then local authorities are afraid that those plans would have a compromising impact on licensing and therefore back away at the planning stage. We think that the amendments would assist in that matter.

I appreciate that in the near future a planning Bill is to come before the House, but we cannot wait and second-guess what that Bill may contain. If amenity is to be solely a planning matter, then adequate safeguards must be transferred to planning conditions. That is what the amendments seek to achieve. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I rise warmly to support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness. Perhaps I may discuss at the same time Amendments Nos. 268,

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272 and 273 tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville. They concern the carry-over into the new regime of undertakings given in connection with the award of a licence. At present, those undertakings will not form part of the transitional arrangements and in effect they will disappear because they are dealt with on an informal basis by agreement between the licensee and the local authority. I am not sure of their legal status, but we have been advised that one of the effects of the Bill would be that all the undertakings given to licensees in the past will not read across into the new regime and thus will be lost. We think that that represents a serious lacuna in the Bill which the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, seek to address.

I shall not repeat all that has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, but I should like noble Lords to know that I counted the number of times that the word "planning" was used during our discussions in Committee. The total was 123 times. That emphasises the fact that noble Lords believe that there should be a close link between planning and licensing. The amendments would establish a necessary connection by ensuring that material changes of use of licensed premises would remain under the control of the planning authority and that any conditions and undertakings to which a licence is to be subject would carry over into the new regime created by the Bill. To an extent therefore an overlap occurs between the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville.

I am concerned about the combined effects of the A3 use class as set out in the use classes order and the Bill. As the noble Baroness has explained, the A3 use class order embraced a whole class of uses of premises for the provision of food and drink, all the way from a little neighbourhood café comprising half a dozen tables up to a huge nightclub able to accommodate over 2,000 people. The order provided that changes of use from one use to another within that use class did not require planning permission. Furthermore, the 1987 order was retrospective, applying to all premises that came within the A3 use class at the time. What was even worse was that planning permission continued to be given for new A3 development, but at least under the licensing regime as it stood before the proposals in this Bill it was possible to impose conditions for new liquor licences, on entertainment licences and night café licences on grant or renewal to protect the amenity of the surrounding area.

At earlier stages of the Bill I mentioned the situation in Ealing, which was reviewed in the Research Report on Planning for Leisure and Tourism from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. I commend the report to noble Lords. It contains some interesting case studies. However, the study that particularly caught my attention related to Ealing town centre. It helps to establish that what we are talking about is not unique to Westminster—a point often pretended by those who seek to suggest that the circumstances of Westminster are unique and should not be allowed to drive policies in the Bill.

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The report showed that:


    "In Ealing town centre, between 1990 and 1995, there were 25 applications for change of use from A1 to A3 (plus 6 extensions) and 8 from offices to A3. The growth of liquor licences has also been significant. Not only were there applications relating to new A3 uses but existing A3 uses [such as] cafés, take-aways, restaurants and pubs were changing in concept (without requiring planning consent) and seeking new licences. Over the same period there were 20 new on-licences and 11 restaurant licences in Ealing town centre".

The effects of that, felt by Ealing residents, were problems relating to the concentration of A3 uses, leading to public disorder disturbances and the deterrence of potential visitors; conflict of amenity with residents; noise and traffic in the early hours; degradation of the environment; litter, broken glass, urine and so forth; along with a reduction in facilities for other groups of users such as families and the elderly. Those are the same kinds of problems that have been cited in relation to Westminster. They could be duplicated in many other places.

I think it is important to include the amendments in the Bill, in particular that any undertakings given by licensees should be carried forward into the new regime. Without that, a substantial degree of protection will be lost.


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