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Lord Colwyn: My Lords, I hope that the House will allow me 60 seconds to say something on behalf of musicians in this country. Every time that I intervened during the passage of the then Bill, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, chastised me for my continual interventions, and assured me that there was no problem at all and that it was all in my imagination. However, although the Act includes the "playing of recorded music" in the description of regulated entertainment, that is disapplied in the transition to the new regime for existing bars, pubs, restaurants, hotels and any premises that are already licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises. Those places will be allowed automatically to keep jukeboxes or other systems for the playing of recorded sound, no matter how powerful the amplification. However, the automatic permission to have one or two live musicians in such venuesamplified or notwill cease. That was the live performer element of the so-called "two in a bar" rule, which since 1961 has been available in those premises as an exception from the general requirement to hold a public entertainment licence for live music.
The DCMS hoped that existing pubs, bars and restaurants would seek authorisation during the transitional period by varying their licence application to include live music, which could be done for one fee. However, that variation is not straightforward. It entails public advertisement at the applicant's expense, and a period for: public consultation; vetting by police, the fire authority, and on grounds of environmental health; planning; and ultimately the approval of the licensing committee of the local authority. If objections are received, whether from local residents or other agencies, a public hearing may be required with the potential for knock-on costs. The
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Government were warned that the then Bill would do nothing to promote live music. Musicians need venues to play and perform. The Act does nothing to help.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it falls to me to clarify what the House should be concentrating on today. What we have had of course is a repetition of some Second Reading speeches, many of the points in which were not carried through to final decisions on the then Bill. The House should recognise that we are not debating the Act today, but a process of implementation of it that is already completed in accordance with the wishes of the House, other than this final step. I recognise that the final step gives the opportunity for some rehearsal of past arguments.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, was kind enough to suggest that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, produced a forensic dismantling of the Government's position. That was scarcely in evidence during the passage of the then Bill. I heard the noble Viscount refer to the Labour Party's campaign with three Xs in it. That does not sound very forensic to me; it was a four X campaign, related to the advertisement for a famous lager firm. I did not think that we had a forensic dismantling of the Government's case. We had a plea for the final stage not to be implemented. However, the date is significant, because it is the date on which premises licences and club premises certificates are given effect and the old licences cease to have effect. If a vote took place and proved fatal to the measure, which it is not designed to do, vast numbers of our licensed premises would be outwith the law. Thousands of premises would have to apply simply to stay open over Christmas. Such are the reckless arguments presented on the other side of the House that I believe that noble Lords there are prepared to sustain their case on the basis of something that would produce chaos for the industry and the consuming public.
Let us be frank. This debate is a fallout from a media campaign in the summer that began to identify what it regarded as weaknesses of the Act. The campaign revolved round the issue of binge drinking. Of course I recognise the strength of the anxieties of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, about binge drinking and the problems caused by the late-night economy. I do not for a moment do anything except understand his concern. But he must recognise that he is describing not the impact of the Licensing Act, but what is going on here and now under our present licensing regime. The whole point about the licensing regime that we introduced in the Act was to tighten up procedures so far as licensing was concerned. Noble Lords will recognise that we are involved in a major campaign to bring to the attention of the nation the problems of binge drinking. It is important in that framework that we recognise that the police welcome the additional powers that the Act gives them to tackle the issues.
Of course excess consumption of alcohol in an irresponsible way is of concern to us all. The selling in an irresponsible way of alcohol in those terms has caused the problem to a large degree, and the Act increases the constraints on the selling of alcohol.
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Simply to take the argument of the noble Lord, Lord McNallyit was adverted to by the noble Viscount, Lord Astorthat is why it is important that we concern ourselves with binge drinking, and that the Act come into force. From the second appointed day, the Act will give the enforcement agencies an unprecedented range of new powers to address irresponsible retailing of alcohol. The vast majority of the expanded police powers on closure of premises and modernised offences are expressed in terms which describe events or offences taking place at premises carrying on licensable activitiessuch as selling alcoholunder the authority of premises licences, club premises certificates and temporary event notices. If the new licences or certificates are not brought into effect, the new powers and offences are without effect too. That is the importance of the order.
I do not have time to expand on the long list of police closure powers, tougher penalties in respect of selling alcohol to children and more effective review procedures, but I assure the House that this was exactly the thrust behind the Bill and the basis of the Government's argument for why the Bill was needed. The House heard that repeatedly when we debated the Bill.
It is not just the licensing powers that some noble Lords opposite would delay. The powers of environmental health officers to close licensed premises that are causing noise nuisance did not exist before the Act. We need to be able to enforce them. They are expressed in the new licences that the Act envisages.
There is no demand for delay from those who will benefit from the powers or from those who are to be licensed under the new legislation. The Association of Chief Police Officers does not want delay on the Actvery much the opposite. It recently confirmed clearly that it did not want implementation to be delayed.
Licensing authorities, which have put enormous effort and good work in to delivering the requirements in the transitional period of the Act, do not want it to be delayedquite the opposite. The responsible parts of the alcohol industry, which have paid for their new licences and expect to have the benefits of them from 24 November, are certainly not arguing for delay.
Village halls and sports clubs that have met the requirements of the new licences are also not in favour of delay. Local residents have engaged in licensing issues in greater numbers than we have seen before and have put in time and effort on objecting to variations. That would all be wasted if the Act was not implemented. They do not want delay.
So who wants delay? Some sections of the media have contended that delay would be somehow in people's interests. We all recognised that binge drinkingto say nothing of the attendant crime and violenceneed to be tackled, but the extent to which the Act is designed to get a grip on the issue has been misinterpreted.
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Noble Lords must recognise that one crucial issue that ran through the heart of the Bill was that a large number of people came on to the streets at the set throwing-out time for pubs and clubs, which meant that they were all milling around and competing for taxis and other forms of transport home, causing tension and confusion. The whole point of the flexible hours was to reduce that.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister's description of what happened at chucking-out time might have been true 10 years ago, but now in the West End, for example, closing times extend between 11 pm and 3 am. The crime figures hour by hour for that period are more or less evenly spread out, so the argument falls to the ground.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord is describing the current situation. He cannot be arguing that we ought to delay the Act and persist with the status quo, which he has eloquently criticised. The whole point about the present situation is that we need licences to be looked at more carefully and we need local representation. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, with the support of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, introduced some issues about whether councillors could make representations. It is suggested that there is a restriction on councillors if they do not live in the area that they represent. That restriction obtains only if no local resident has raised an objection. Local councillors, local representatives and local people are expected to make representations on licencesand are in the process of engaging in that process, which we have never seen before. I cannot recall the noble Viscount or his predecessors on the Front Benchhe did not have the joy of appearing on the Front Bench throughout the passage of the Licensing Bill itselfemphasising at that stage that they wanted to preserve the status quo because local opinion was so frequently heard with regard to the issuing of licences; very far from it. The whole point is that this Act brings in a greater degree of local representation and involvement.
I hear the point that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, makes about the restriction on local councillors and we will look at that. We may have defined matters too tightly in terms of the concept of "the vicinity". But I want him to recognise that we are bringing local councillors and representatives of local interests into the debate about licences and the role that they can play in licences which just did not obtain before this Act became part of the position.
We are substantially towards the concluding stages of implementing the Act and we had all these actors play their part in the development of the licences. It is suggested that a very large percentagein the media it has been suggested that as many as 10 per centof licensed premises will be trading illegally after 24 November because they will not have their licences. The figures do not amount to a fifth of that. We are talking about a very small number of premises indeed. However, because of the difficulties of meeting the fairly tough requirements in the procedure under the
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Act, if some premises have obtained a licence and it is known and on the record that they have obtained the licence but the certificate has not been sent to them for display in the barwhere they are obliged under the law so to displaywe are expecting that there will be an element of tolerance with regard to the law in those terms. We do not expect the police to be certificate chasing when they are able to ascertain that a licence has been properly applied for and has been gained. That is not a matter of loose interpretation of the law; it is asking for common sense to be applied in what we all recognise is a major change to the arrangements for licensing premises in this country.
The noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, raised the issue of live musican issue on which he was most eloquent during the Bill's passage. Of course I respect his opinion on that. In the transitional period there has not been a decrease in the number of venues providing live music. We do not think that the Act is bad for live music. We think that abolishing the "two in a bar" rule increases opportunities. As far as we can see in licence applications, there will be increased opportunities for live music in licensed premises. However, as I move from the Scylla of the criticism of the noble Lord I land on the Charybdis of the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the question of noise. But of course we are concerned that the local community will be in a position to make its contribution to the issuing of licences to guarantee that local opinion is taken into account.
I recognise that what we have had this evening is a really rather jolly time in revisiting the Act. However, in the terms of the Motion, there is no intent to stop the second designated day of the Act, because to do so would throw the whole of our licensed premises and the selling of alcohol in this country and the control over selling of alcohol into complete chaos. On that basis, I hope that the House will reject the Motion.
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