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Lord Thomas of Gresford: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. However, he appeared to be describing a parallel service whereby the local authority will look at specific individuals and assess them for their needs. He has not told meand I would like clarity on this pointwhether they will provide a
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report for the decision maker, whether it is a magistrate or a civil judge, to have before him when he sets out the various prohibitions that he wishes to impose in a drinking banning order. If I could have assurance that guidance would be to the effect that a judge must consider whether a report is necessary and call for it there would not be any need for me to pursue the amendment. But as it stands and in the absence of any further assurance, it is a matter that I shall pursue. Perhaps the Minister would like to consider it between now and Report.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord for extending that invitation. As I understand it, the amendment in any event seeks to create a situation where before an order is made the court may receive a report from the appropriate personprobably social services. I made it clear in my comments that when an order is sought, particularly against a young person, an assessment will be made of their circumstances and needs in every case, which will enable the local authority to ensure that the appropriate services are available or can be provided to the young person concerned. The assumption would be that a report should be formulated.
A statutory requirement will be placed on the police and on the local authority to consult each other. That will help to identify vulnerable people. I have no doubt that before an order is sought there will be partial reliance on the wisdom of local services. As I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate, the expectation is that the police and the local authority, in seeking to tackle the problems associated with alcohol in those terms, will work closely together before seeking to make use of a drinking banning order in relation to other criminal activity driven by alcohol. The expectation is that there will be close liaison and that the information required before an order is made is available to the court.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: In his earlier remarks, the noble Lord was not clear whether the court would have a duty to consider whether a report was necessary. However, he made it clear that rough sleepers, people suffering from alcohol dependence and perhaps drug dependence are not excluded from this Bill. It is not just a Bill to deal with binge drinking by young people. It obviously has much wider connotations. I shall read carefully what he said. I hope we can return to this in a constructive way when we get to Report. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: This is a large and complex group of amendments and I hope that the Committee will bear with me as I work my way through them. In
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commenting on the government amendments, I shall also comment for the convenience of noble Lords on amendments that have been made to them.
Reference has already been made to some of the issues that these amendments cover. I ought to place on record the Government's gratitude to Humfrey Malins, who suggested many of the ideas which we have attempted to encapsulate within the amendments. No doubt other contributors to this debate will draw further on Mr Malins' important initiative.
In Committee in the other place, the Government gave a commitment to consider whether positive requirements to address alcohol misuse behaviour could be attached to a drinking banning order. During Second Reading in this House, my noble friend Lady Scotland confirmed that we would indeed be tabling new clauses to this effect.
The first new clauseAmendment No. 8 and associated Amendments Nos. 9, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29 and 32will enable individuals who are subject to a drinking banning order to undertake a course to address their alcohol misuse and enable them to confront it.
A court will be able to propose to an individual that they attend an improved course. The court can do this if it is satisfied that a place is available for the individual; if the individual has voluntarily agreed to attend the course, this can be included in the drinking banning order.
Before attendance of an approved course is included in an order, the individual must be informedin plain language in writing, or by other meansof what attendance on the course will involve, any fees that they would need to apply and at what time they would need to be paid. If the court decides it is not going to include a provision in a drinking banning order for an individual to attend an approved course, it must give its reasons for not doing so in open court.
This new clause makes it clear that the duration of a drinking banning orderknown as the "specified period"can last for between two months and two years. Different prohibitions within a drinking banning order can also take effect for different periods, known as the "prohibition period". The new clause provides that the terms of a drinking banning order or the prohibitions contained within it may cease to apply before the end of the specified period or prohibition period if an individual successfully completes an approved course specified in their order.
The court would set a time when a drinking banning order or prohibition would cease to have effect should the individual satisfactorily complete an approved course. The court would also decide the appropriate reduction in length of the drinking banning order or prohibition and state the date by which the individual would need to complete the course.
An order or prohibition cannot cease to have effect until at least half of the specified period or the prohibition period. Therefore, an individual would have to serve over half the duration of a drinking banning orderor prohibition in such an order
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before it can cease to have effect. The Secretary of State will be able to make regulations, subject to the affirmative procedure, to modify the earliest time at which an order or prohibition can cease to have effect. That will enable the minimum duration of a drinking banning order or their prohibition to be adjusted if it is necessary to do so in the light of experience.
We are making some consequential amendments to the drinking banning order clauses to reflect this new provision. Amendments Nos. 21 to 23 in Clause 4 and Amendments Nos. 27 to 29 in Clause 7 reflect the introduction of "a relevant local court" in relation to a drinking banning order, meaning a magistrates' court acting for the local justice area in which the subject normally resides. Amendment No. 32 in Clause 8 changes "the permission of the justices' clerk" to that of a "proper officer", also in consequence of the new clauses being introduced.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 10 to 14, tabled by Conservative Members of the Committee, which relate to the new clause. Amendments Nos. 10 to 12 appear to propose that courses should cover such issues as rehabilitation, alcohol awareness and anger management. The courses may cover such issues but in our view there is no need to specify that in the Bill. The content of courses needs to be flexible so as to address an individual's alcohol misuse behaviour. On Amendment No. 13, which would ensure that an individual is informed "in an accessible format" about what attendance on a course will involve, we say that the Bill already specifies that such information should be provided in plain language in any eventin writing, or otherwise. It is best left to the court to decide how to inform the individual. With regard to Amendment No. 14, we can also leave it to the court to decide how they will inform the subject of the implications of not completing a course. Where it is appropriate to do so, these matters can be covered in guidance.
I also need to speak to Amendment No. 37, which will give effect to the second new clause on the duration of a drinking banning order. It sets out the basis for operating and running approved courses. Applications can be made to the Secretary of State to run a course addressing an individual's alcohol misuse behaviour. In deciding whether to approve a course, the Secretary of State will have regard to a course's proposed content and whether the person providing and administering the course is an appropriate person to do so. In reaching that decision the Secretary of State may seek the views of others appointed to consider those applications.
A course may be approved subject to specific conditions that the Secretary of State considers appropriate. That will ensure that course content is appropriate and targeted specifically at addressing alcohol misuse behaviour which has become subject to the drinking banning order. Once a course is approved it can remain in place for up to seven years. Approval can, however, be withdrawn at any time that is considered necessary. The Secretary of State is given a power to make regulations covering, among other things, the payment of fees for the consideration and approval of applications, the maximum fees that an
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individual may pay to attend a course and the monitoring both of courses and those providing them. He may also issue guidance on the conduct of courses.
So, this new clause provides for an effective regime to be in place to ensure that courses to address the behaviour of those subject to an order are operated professionally and should make a positive contribution to our societal efforts to reduce alcohol-related crime and disorder.
Opposition Amendments Nos. 38 to 41 seek to alter our approach. Amendment No. 40 seeks to restrict applications for running courses to not-for-profit organisations. I understand the motive behind that, but we do not want to restrict applications for running courses on that basis, which could otherwise restrict the number of organisations that might be suitableand have the right experience in running courses aimed at addressing alcohol misuse behaviour. Amendments Nos. 38, 39 and 41 together propose that rather than saying regulations may be made about the approval of a course, "may" would be replaced with "shall". To us, that seems unnecessary.
I need also to speak to the new clause proposed in Amendment No. 42 and the consequential Amendments Nos. 48, 50, 51, 56 and 57. This is the third new clause that we are introducing. It provides for a certificate to be given to an individual who has satisfactorily completed an approved course and for a written notice to be issued if it is decided not to give a certificate. When an individual has satisfactorily completed an approved course, the court must provide a certificate. An individual would be considered to have successfully completed the course once the certificate has been received by the court.
The Secretary of State can make regulations specifying the form of the certificate and any particulars it must contain and cover. A course provider must give a certificate unless the individual undertaking the course fails to pay the course fees, fails to attend the course as instructed or fails to comply with any other reasonable requirement of the course provider. If the course provider cannot issue a certificate, it must give the individual written notice of that decision and their reasons. The course provider must issue a certificate or a notice within 14 days of being asked to by the individual. As with certificates of satisfactory completion, the Secretary of State is given a power to make regulations on the form of the notices that are issued when an individual fails to satisfactorily complete the course. The remaining government Amendments Nos. 48, 50, 51, 56 and 57 are consequential.
I hope that the Committee will agree that the introduction of approved courses to help individuals subject to drinking banning orders to change their behaviour is a very positive step. By allowing courts to reduce the length of an order or its prohibitions, we are creating a sensible incentive for individuals to address their behaviour. We feel that that combination of imposing prohibitions on an individual and providing educational interventions will increase the
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effectiveness of drinking banning orders in addressing alcohol-related crime and disorder. I commend the new clause and the associated amendments.
I now turn to opposition Amendments Nos. 43 to 45, 58 and 59. Amendments Nos. 43 and 45 propose the inclusion of a new subsection so that if an individual who is subject to a drinking banning order is unable to complete a course because the person providing the course ceases to operate under the conditions approved by the Secretary of State, he may make an application to the court that made the order to issue a certificate of the approved course. I agree that a person should not suffer a detriment if he has done all that is required of him but, before he has completed the course or obtained a certificate, the course provider ceases to operate.
However, experience from drink/drive intervention courses, from which the provision is very much drawn, shows that that is a very unlikely scenario. In respect of the courses for drink-drivers, which have operated on an experimental basis since 1993, and in all court areas since 2000, we are not aware of a single case where the provider has ceased to operate without first giving a period of notice. The Secretary of State can approve and withdraw approval for behaviour intervention courses. Therefore, conditions can be set when approving a course to ensure that adequate notice is given if a course provider decides that it no longer wishes to provide a course.
If a course ceases to operate under the conditions approved by the Secretary of State, approval for the course can be withdrawn. Such action should be timed so as to ensure that those already attending a course delivered by the provider in question are not adversely affected, but also so as to ensure that no new referrals to the course take place. Although that scenario is very unlikely, the most likely outcome would be that the person would be referred to another provider to continue to complete the course. That provider would then issue the certificate of completion.
In any event, I do not believe that a court would be well placed to make judgments about whether a person has fulfilled the attendance and other requirements of a behaviour intervention course without making time-consuming inquiries. So I assure the Committee that these matters will be covered in detail in guidance and that the amendments proposed are for that reason unnecessary. The subject of a drinking banning order is to be regarded as having completed an approved course satisfactorily if and only if the person providing the course has issued a certificate stating that the subject has done so.
Amendment No. 44 seeks to remove ", and only if,". This amendment, too, is unnecessary, as this is the only basis on which an individual would have satisfactorily completed the course. The person providing an approved course must give the individual a certificate of completion unless the individual has, among other things,
Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 seek to change amendments that we have tabled. Amendment No. 58 seeks to ensure that no regulations are made under Section 11 unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution in each House. Amendment No. 59 seeks to remove:
"A statutory instrument containing . . . regulations under section (Approved courses) or (Certificates of completion of approved courses) . . . shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament".
The government amendments, which the amendments seek to change, set out the parliamentary procedure for regulations and orders made under Chapter 1 of Part 1. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which has obviously had the chance and the opportunity to comment on the Bill, has not objected to these or to the proposed level of parliamentary scrutiny. For those reasons, we cannot accept the amendments. I apologise for having detained the House at length over the amendments, but I thought that the issues to which they give rise needed to be given our very fair consideration. I also wanted to set out in some detail the effect of the government amendments. I beg to move.
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