Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence

Sections 300-319

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

Tuesday 18 February 2003

300. LORD ELTON: The Keeling Schedule as drafted means that you can only inspect when a performance is in progress and removing those words means you can, as you say, in a friendly sense inspect them when there is no performance.

301. MR LEWIS: Correct.

302. LORD ELTON: But it does not remove the right to inspect when a performance is in progress if you so wish.

303. MR LEWIS: Yes.

304. LORD ELTON: Thank you very much.

305. MR LEWIS: Clause 24, my Lords, is being dropped.

306. Clause 25, soliciting for custom. This clause creates a new specific offence of soliciting for custom, but only in respect of specific types of premises. The clause is intended to address a problem which is widespread particularly in the West End of London, and even more particularly in Soho. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the council and the police, there are still a number of illegal drinking clubs, premises used for public entertainment without a licence and also unlicensed near-beer premises. The latter may be better known to your Lordships as clip joints.

307. Whilst the councils have the power to deal with unlicensed premises by way of prosecution, there is little they can do to prevent people from enticing customers to those premises.

308. Then we move to the next opposed provision.

309. LORD ELTON: Why is the exemption in the Addition Apart put forward?

310. MR LEWIS: The operation of land of railway undertakers again. The railway undertakers, first of all we believe have their own bylaws to deal with this particular problem and, secondly, I think it is probably true to say that it really is not a problem in the West End of London.

311. MR BLACKWELL: Not in relation to those areas. They tend to be the streets in and around Soho. This was something that was added as a result of negotiations with other parties.

312. CHAIRMAN: And near-beer is a defined term, is it?

313. MR LEWIS: Yes, it is a defined term. The definition has had to be altered once already. The operators of these premises are very clever at finding ways around the legislation and continue to do so. The reason the words "near-beer" were used was because as part of the original definition of "near-beer premises" they had to be offering for sale liquid refreshment which gave the impression that it contained alcohol. It was not quite beer, it was nearly beer. If they sell beer then obviously they fall within the licensing laws.

314. CHAIRMAN: It is non-alcoholic?

315. MR LEWIS: Yes, it is non-alcoholic but with exotic names which imply that it is either a cocktail or a German lager.

316. MR BLACKWELL: Shloss Ousenberg and the like. It is not just provision of de-alcoholised liquid, it is also the provision of that and the companionship of a hostess or provision of public entertainment, so therefore a strip show. What tends to happen is that people go in expecting to get the strip show and/or the company of a hostess, they are there for two minutes and given their bill for a drink that they probably did not order in the first place and the bill tends to be for about £400 and they are fleeced.

317. CHAIRMAN: Your Lordship's Committee is entirely unfamiliar with any of this kind of thing. I think that is Clause 25, thank you very much.

318. MR LEWIS: Clauses 26 to 29 deal with fixed penalties and they can be taken together. My Lords, there are two departmental reports against these provisions and I will deal with those shortly. Again, this might be an opportune moment if the representatives from the two Government Departments identify themselves.




319. MR JONES: I am Daniel Jones from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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