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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I have no difficulty in assuring the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, that he has not moved me an inch, except in further entrenching my determination to seek the opinion of your Lordships' House. I do not want to mention everybody who has kindly spoken. I naturally applaud more loudly and am much more grateful to those who have supported the amendment. I am very disappointed, although not at all surprised, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. He is so charming and so nice, but he ends up so disappointingly. I have to tell him that on this occasion I found his noble friend Lord Hooson a light that shone in the darkness. I hope that the darkness will not extinguish him ever.
I understand and sympathise with the position of my noble friend Lady Buscombe. She felt obliged to maintain a silence, but I should be happy if she would be so kind as to communicate that there was an element of disappointment that she should be forced to do so. I do not ask her to acknowledge that now, however.
I was particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Carlisle, who got it absolutely clear. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, will also accept my thanks for her support. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong; he spoke from the Cross Benches, but I would refer to him as my noble friend.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, having got that Second Reading debate out of the way, I hope that we can move on a little faster. I shall do my best to be brief on this amendment, the purpose of which is to allow schools, charities, not-for-profit organisations and the like to make representations in their own right. They are currently able to do so for both liquor licences and public entertainment licences. Removing that right, as the Bill does, cuts out a class of potentially interested parties. It is not practical to suggest, as Ministers have done, that someone such as the employee, the parent or the pupil would make representations on behalf of a school; and similarly for other organisations. There are going to be strict timetables for making representations. Are Ministers seriously suggesting that a hospital, for example, which is concerned about a licence application across the street, should run down the addresses of its employees in the hope that it will be able to find one who lives in the vicinity of the premises and ask that person to make representations on behalf of the whole hospital?
Continuing on the theme of hospitals, at present the Bill would allow a BUPA hospital to make direct representations because it is a business, whereas a National Health Service hospital would have to ask one of its staff members to make representations on its behalf. I can see no logic in that.
There is a further and crucially important reason why organisations should be classed as interested parties. Residents' or tenants' associations frequently act on behalf of their members where individuals are reluctant to come forward because they find it difficult or are unable to follow the procedures, or because they feel intimidated. There have been instances where licence applicants called personally on people in the vicinity and put them in a state of fear even if no actual threat was made. Some applicants are rich and powerful companies. So the private citizen may not want to antagonise them without going into detail about how the company or big group might get nasty if they felt that the resident was opposing them.
In Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that a school could object through a governor, parent, pupil or teacher living in the vicinity. Such a person could make representations, but they would do so as an individual and not in their capacity as representative of governors, parents, pupils or teachers. Their collective voice would never be heard because the governor or parent would appear by authority of the named persons living in the vicinity who would be the interested parties for the purposes of Clause 14.
The rights of residents' associations would also be extinguished. An officer of the residents' association cannot appear in that capacity but merely as an individual nominated for the purpose of a hearing by people living in the vicinity. At one point in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that a residents' association could be an interested party but immediately contradicted herself when she addedat col. 32 of the Official Report of
As I understand it, if the chair of the residents' association, local conservation society, amenity group or "generic local committee"let us call it the GLCdoes not live in the vicinity of the premises, he or she would have to produce a written authorisation from one or more people who do qualify as interested parties. The status of the chair or other officer in the GLC would be no more than that of representative of the interested parties. I should be grateful if the noble Baroness would confirm what I have just said about the necessity for the person purporting to represent persons living in the vicinity to produce a written authorisation. As I see it, if they did not do that, the applicant could object and say that the person was not entitled to appear before the tribunal purely in his capacity as an officer of the GLC.
The whole point of having such an organisation is that the individual does not have to appear before what may seem to him a strange and incomprehensible tribunal, or even to have his name mentioned in that setting. It is absolutely certain that some residents who are currently happy to brief the officers of their local GLC will go silent if they have to be identified. Therefore, many valid representations will go by the board. The House has already decided that MEPs, MPs and local councillors can appear in their own right. They may be asked to do so far more regularly if people cannot look to their local amenity association. I beg to move.
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