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Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, for his support, and to the Minister for her reply, even though I find it, unsurprisingly, disappointing. The provision is still a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Our problemI agree that it is a problem for both sides but not for responsible shootersis the use that the criminal fraternity will make of an opportunity. I accept that that is a real difficulty. However, as my noble friend said, here we have a situation where the legitimate community are prepared to give up the whole weapon if they are compensated for it. I accept that if they can continue to use it, compensation should not be paid. However, the question is whether anyone who currently does not have a firearms licence will want to go to the trouble and expense of getting one, with all the additional security measures that are incumbent on them if they hold such a licence for the keeping of a gun, for something that is of relatively little value.
I do not know the answer to that; different individuals will come to different conclusions. However, for many people, the effect of the Bill as it stands is not that the weapon is being confiscated but that it is being banned. That is the reality. That does therefore argue to a certain extent in favour of compensation.
Of course, we can never deal with the criminal fraternity completely as regards the conversion, alteration or modification of weapons. There are criminal armourers out there who can start with a bar of steel and end up with a finished weapon. We are not proposing to ban people from owning bars of steel, although that is almost the implication behind this part of the Bill. I agree that that is arguing a very extreme case. Nevertheless, I think that there is merit in dealing with what is a specific problem in a specific way. If subsequently there is another specific problem, perhaps we could produce an amendment to those that we have produced to enable that problem to be dealt with also. We must consider that.
Lord Avebury: I should like briefly to speak to Clause 46 stand part. I have given the noble Baroness notice that I was going to mention the research being conducted by MCM Research Ltd on behalf of Defra, on the implications for noise disturbance from licensed premises. I originally raised this matter in the Committee stage of the Licensing Bill on 10th February when there was no sign of the report being produced by the time that
Those Members of the Committee who took part in the proceedings on the Licensing Bill will remember that we had several discussions on the importance of the guidance and that after a good deal of prevarication the Ministers in charge of that Bill produced an early draft. It now appears that we shall have no opportunity of commenting on the guidance or on the Defra report before these key documents are set in stone. We have very little confidence in the Defra study as it was commissioned from a company whose clients are largely concerned with the production of alcohol and the business of selling it. The manner in which the findings of the report are to be released at a seminar outside Parliament, not to Parliament, confirms the anxieties that we felt. We request that the Government allow time for discussion of that document and of the guidance, however little influence your Lordships may have on the way in which they are applied.
Lord Whitty: It probably falls to me to respond to the noble Lord rather than my noble friend Lady Scotland, although neither of us received notice of the matter. I believe that the noble Lord referred to the MCM research and the draft report on noise from licensed premises. Considerable discussion took place on noise from licensed premises during the passage of the Licensing Bill. The report will be published on 29th October. That coincides with the UK noise forum conference at which all the concerned parties will be brought together before any definitive guidance is issued.
Although I understand the points that have been made and am familiar with such points made in a different context, Clause 46 is not dependent on the guidance to which the noble Lord referred. Therefore, I do not believe that to oppose the Question that Clause 46 stand part of the Bill meets the noble Lord's point. However, I undertake to write to the noble Lord in more detail on the UK noise forum conference.
Baroness Hamwee: I did not know that my noble friend Lord Avebury intended to raise this point. It would certainly be helpful when the guidance is issued to have attached to it an explanation of the difference between the criteria that are used to judge noise in the context of the Licensing Bill and those that are used to judge public nuisance as it is public nuisance rather
Lord Hylton: While we are considering Clause 46 it would be helpful if the Government could explain why closure for a period not exceeding 24 hours is likely to be helpful. Is it intended just as a warning to the owners or managers of a particular premises from which noise nuisance is emanating that their conduct has been noticed and is thought to be excessive, or what other purpose can it serve? Twenty-four hours seems a very short period.
Some years ago I had experience in rural Somerset of complaints regarding a particular pub. I know that noise from such premises can cause great local aggravation, particularly to people living in the immediate neighbourhood of the premises, but I am somewhat mystified by the way in which this clause is drafted.
Lord Whitty: The aim of the power within the clause is to stop the noise. It is not of itself a penalty or a warning; it seeks to ensure that the disturbance caused by the noise stops. There are, of course, criminal proceedings beyond that point but the 24-hour period seeks to ensure that the particular nuisance that is being caused is ended instantly.
The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 193ZB and 193ZC. Amendment No. 193ZA picks up the point that has just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. Clause 46(3)(a) provides that a closure order may not exceed 24 hours. My amendment probes why that is necessary and the circumstances in which it was envisaged that it would be used. The amendment suggests deleting Clause 47(1)(a) and (b), because I find it particularly difficult to envisage circumstances in which a closure order of up to 24 hours may be made and then cancelled. I assume that it would have to be cancelled within the 24 hours, or it would have expired.
Amendments Nos. 193ZB and 193ZC suggest that a chief executive of a local authority can appoint any officer to exercise the closure powers, not only an environmental health officer. I have made a note that the Local Government Association raised that matter, although I confess that I could not find the reference to that in my papers this afternoon when I looked for it, so it may have been my imagination, but I think not.
The Government may suggest that environmental health officers know their way around the area legally speaking, but one can imagine that only an inexperienced EHO might be available at a given time. Would it not be more sensible to give the powers to a more senior local authority officer, perhaps accompanied by an EHO? I cannot believe that chief executives would be reckless in giving that authority.
Lord Whitty: As I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, on the previous clause, the point of the 24-hour closure is to end the public nuisance, not to punish the owner or manager of the licensed premises. For example, if a nuisance were related to the televising of a football match one evening and a huge crowd were watching the match on the premises, there would be no reason, provided that everything had quietened down, why the pub should not open again at 11 o'clock the next morning. The environmental health officer would have to make that judgment, clearly, but without that provision the 24-hour order would always stand for 24 hours.
Lord Avebury: An order does not have to be for 24 hours. According to Clause 46(3), it could be for the duration of the football match or the remainder of the time when the licensed premises would have remained open that evening anyway, and not for the 24 hours, which would extend into the following day's opening.
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