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Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will reconsider what he has just said. Is he aware, for instance, that all registered non-profit making members' clubsin other words working men's clubsare affiliated to the Performing Right Society Limited and pay due dues to that society. Unless he is referring to some other form of club, it does not affect working men's clubs.
Lord McNally: My Lords, I am sure that we can be briefed on that issue. I know of the noble Lord's long association with the affiliated clubs. This must be something of a record: I am about to defend Sky Television. I understand that at the moment Sky Television has some 150 prosecutions out against clubs for using pirated cards, with some 200 others pending and about 1,500 accusations. None of these may be affiliated clubs, or they may all be Conservative rather than Labour clubsI do not know. All I say is that this is a matter that I shall want to tease out.
Last night I was asked by a lady whether the legislation covered the fact that certain clubs can discriminate against women members, and whether this would be a good opportunity to end that anomaly of discrimination. Again I leave that for future debate. We may table an amendment in Committee in order to clarify that. On the whole I think that we should approach the matter with caution. We have had briefing from the various entertainment and leisure
Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, this is not particularly my subject and I have no interest to declare or indeed any axe to grind, but I have been moved to intervene in this debate by personal experience and by representations which I find persuasive. I hope very much to stay to the end of the debate, but, not having yet joined the late-night culture, my eating arrangements have been made for a more conventional hour.
I am not convinced that, in allowing pubs and clubs to stay open all night, the Bill strikes a proper balance between the rights of business to ply their trade free from unnecessary restrictions and the rights of residents to peaceful enjoyment of their homes, especially at night. The fact that the purposes of the businesses covered by the Bill mainly concern the sale of alcohol and the playing of loud music is bound to make this clash of rights more acute.
Having until recently owned a house just off Charlotte Street, I have personally experienced the maddening succession of nights heavily interrupted by the rhythmic beat of amplified music from a neighbouring club, powerless it seemed to me to do anything about it. Your Lordships will not need reminding that as people grow older their appetite for all-night clubbing diminishes in almost direct proportion as their desire for all-night sleep grows. I exempt the Liberal Democrats from this generalisation of course.
I shall not say anything further about provisions for extending late-night refreshment and entertainment, which will be generally welcomed. I also welcome the transfer of responsibility for licensing from magistrates' courts to local authorities. I say only this: that although the object of transferring licensing control to local authorities is to increase local accountability, the discretion of LAs is so restricted that I believe that they are likely in practice to become little more than agents for transmitting the Secretary of State's wishescalled "guidance". Merely having the right to process applications according to a national policy will not increase local accountability.
So what is the policy of the Secretary of State? The philosophy underlying the Bill is composed of two elements. The first is the belief that crime, disorder and general rowdiness associated with binge drinking, or what has been neatly termed the British culture of "mass volume vertical drinking", can be eliminated, or at least greatly reduced by abolishing artificially early closing times. That is the first assumption underlying the Bill.
The second object of policy is to promote a late night economy of live music, dancing and theatre for the wider cultural benefit of communities. The thinking then is: would it not be impious, in the light of this grand design, for a few residents to make trouble over their right to a good night's sleep? As the draft framework for guidance to be issued by the Secretary of State so amiably puts it,
There are two types of noise most likely to concern residents living in the kind of culturally enriched environment envisaged by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport: first, from the licensed premises themselvesloud music, the noise of air conditioning and ventilation plant; and, secondly, from the outsidefrom people leaving the premises, cars revving up, cars honking and car sound systems. Not necessarily a huge explosion of noise at any single moment, but the kind of bursts of noise that stop one falling asleep, or, if one is asleep, wake one up. It will not be general. It will not happen all over the country, but in certain stress areas it is an important consideration. It is precisely in those areas that I think that variations of the general guidelines have to be allowed.
In principle, I have no objection to deregulation of hours. Of course a civilised country should have a late night culture and economy. The Government may even be right in their belief that abolishing closing hours will produce a more civilised drinking culture. That is bound to take time. Sleepless nights for 10 years might strike residents as a cost that they should not have to bear for improvements in our drinking culture.
The Bill also grossly underestimates the effect of that liberation on the infrastructure of areas in which there is likely to be a high demand for extended licences. We have experience of that in Westminster, Camden and Islington, to mention only some London boroughs. Westminster already has 583 late-night licences, 263 of which are in Soho and Covent Garden.
I end with two suggestions and three questions. The main improvement to the Bill would be to require local authorities to take into account the cumulative impact of existing licences in a defined area when considering applications for a new licence. That would deal with the problem of saturationthe over-concentration of pubs and nightclubs, especially the latter, in a localitywhich cannot be dealt with merely by attaching conditions to a new licence application.
I say that despite the fact that Westminster, Camden and Islington councils have not previously been the most conspicuous examples of prudent licensing. They have been greedy. They have welcomed licence applications, irrespective of their effects on the local community, because of the revenues that they receive from them. So they do not come to the latter with perfectly clean hands. Nevertheless, local authorities are the best guardians that we have of local interest and they must be given sufficient discretion.
Secondly, Clause 177 needs amendment to make clear that the local licensing statement is the primary document. At present, the relationship between that statement and the Secretary of State's guidance is unclear. Which is to have priority if there is a challenge to the local authority decision? Perhaps the Minister can clear up that point. I tend to agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that the principles of the guidance should be written into the Bill and Clause 177 amended accordingly.
Now to my questions. First, the "fit and proper" requirement for licence holding has been removed. Are the Government satisfied that 18 is the right minimum age for a licensee? Secondly, are there to be any requirements for proper sound insulation of licensed premisessome way to contain the soundor a maximum decibel count, as exists in New York? Will the Government consider grants for double glazing for dwellings in the vicinity of licensed premises? If so, who will pay for them?
Finally, will the Government consider allowing courts to fine licensees for breach of licence? Would that not be an ideal intermediate measure between granting and suspending or revoking licences altogether, likely to have a particularly sobering effect on licence holders, who are in it for the money more than anything else?
In many respects, the Bill is long overdue. It is not perfect by any means, but it is a major step forward since the Erroll report. Few, if any, Members of the House would pretend that the current licensing position is right and that the law is not in need of revision. I argued in another place for many years that changes were necessary. To a great extent then, the Government should be congratulated on this major step forward, although given the vast number of clauses in the Bill, one could be forgiven for believing that the Bill was written by lawyers for lawyers. Nothing new there, perhaps. But considering that the Government wanted to streamline the procedures for licensingthat seemed to be the case when I read the White Paperthey now seem to have been overtaken by many bureaucratic clauses.
Not leastthis is the main thrust of my speech todayis the effect that the Bill will have on live music in bars and restaurants. At a stroke, 100,000 licensed premises and even, as I understand it, solo performances, could become illegal and lose a long-standing licence exemption for one or two live musicians that dates back to 1899. About 100,000 bars and restaurants, 15,000 churches, hundreds of political clubs and even weddings with musical accompaniment may be affected by the Bill. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister will clarify the meaning of Schedule 1(4), which could be interpreted as having a devastating effect on all those musical activities.
When, some years ago, I was co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group with the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, we campaigned to scrap the so-called "two in bar" rule when only 5 per cent of licensed premises in England and Wales held public entertainment licences. That meant that those 100,000 bars and pubs would have acted illegally if more than two musicians had performed there. What nonsense that is! In years gone by, one can understand that without the strict public safety and noise legislation and police powers that we have today, that may have been the only way to control noisy and rowdy pubs and deal with disorder, but not today.
Hopefully, during the Bill's passage, common sense will prevail. For instance, why do not the Government extend the "two in a bar" rule in the Bill, allowing the safety and noise legislation to do the job that it does in Scotland, which operates within the same legislation? What purpose will the "none in a bar" regime serve? The Noise Abatement Society states that 80 per cent or more of noise complaints are caused by noisy people who are not musicians. I urge the Government to recognise that that part of the Bill will hit the musical profession hard and may have European convention implications, being in conflict with Articles 10 or 15, as it can be argued that it restricts participation in the performing arts.
In conclusion, I ask my noble friend to recognise the deep feelings of the Musicians Union, which broadly accepts the Bill's aims but argues that if enacted unamended it would represent the biggest increase in licensing control for more than 100 years and would
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I declare my interests as a member of a central London local authority and as a magistratebut not a licensing magistrate. Local authorities started to press for licensing to be transferred to them from licensing magistrates some time agonot because the licensing magistrates were no good but because it was felt that local authorities were accountable and should therefore be able not only to represent the views of residents who lived in their area but to make decisions affecting them.
Accountability is lacking in the Bill. The Bill is centralising, giving much power to the Government. There will be much direction. By the time that the Government have laid down all the guidance and standards, the amount of flexibility left to local authorities will be very limited. I am not sure whether, at the end of the day, local authority members will be glad of that accountability, when it comes to elections, if they have had to make what are, in the view of their residents and electors, strange decisions, which they will have to try to blame on the Government. However, on the whole, the transfer to local authorities will be welcomed.
Having said that, I must refer to several other parts of the Bill. Some have been touched on already, and I hesitate to traipse over the ground again. However, I suspect that other people will traipse over it today, anyway, so I will do so. We must consider carefully the extent to which local government policy can reflect local concerns. If local policies are not allowed to reflect local people's aspirations, they will not be accepted. In that context, the decisions that the licensing panels will be able to make seem extremely prescribed. Not only will what they decide be prescribed; there will also be prescription relating to who can object to the panels about an application.
It is strange that, as far as I can see, the only people who will be able to object to an application are local residents who are immediately affected. Presumably, somebody who lives above or just beside the relevant premises will be included, but somebody who just lives in the area will not. Particularly excluded from making objections are the council itself, local ward councillors and amenity societies. Why exclude those people? It may be said that there is a conflict of interest in the case of the council, but ward councillors are accustomed to balancing their position as ward councillors against their position on the council. Presumably, ward councillors would take no part in an application to which they objected; they would not be allowed to. However, they represent their area, and they represent people's views.
One of the concerns about the need to go to a magistrates' court was that residents found them quite intimidating and found it difficult to get there just to spend all day sitting around waiting to object to a
Who will enforce the licences? By and large, that function is being taken out of the hands of local authorities. At the moment, environmental health officers are, by and large, the chief enforcers of anything to do with licensed premises. The police have a role, if there is a crime, but local authorities have the prime responsibility. Why would we put that enforcement role into the hands of the police and, for fire safety, the Fire Brigade? That is over-egging the pudding. If we were relying on the Fire Brigade at the moment, we could not do it. The police are overloaded, and I know that they have considerable concerns about the extension of hours and about the Bill. It is not right that the police should be the only enforcement agency. We should address that matter, too.
The question of cumulative impact has already been raised. I live in central London, as do many others here. I know areas of central London where there is an enormous number of restaurants and licensed premises. The number of such premises could increase, as could their opening hours. Magistrates have always had the right to say that there are too many of such premises in one place, but that has been taken out of the Bill. Local authorities ought to be able to consider whether an area has reached a camel's back situation, in which one more licensed premises will be one too many. As I read the Bill, they will not be able to do that. For central metropolitan areas, that is a great mistake. It will not matter in a village or small town, but it will matter in central London and in places such as Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle, which are also affected.
What about capacity? Why will we not be allowed to regulate the number of people on premises? There have been terrible disasters in other countries caused by having too many people in a building at one time with no control or regulation. There must be a power to limit the number of people who are on the premises at any one time. We must consider that issue.
Fees are to be set by central government. That will not settle what it costs. Why should council tax payers, who will have to pick up the deficit, be faced with the responsibility of paying what it costs to enforce the regulation of licensed premises? That should not be allowed to happen. There should be flexibility in the system of fees, and they should be on the basis of cost, if nothing else, even if it has to be justified.
There is a terrible lack of flexibility. If there is anything that local authorities need from the Bill, it is the flexibility to decide on policies for their area and to decide what conditions are appropriate in their area. They must be able to decide where there are too many premises and to decide, to some extent, the hours that those premises are open.
It is a big Bill, with big implications. Many in the licensed trade have high hopes that it will free life up and make things less bureaucratic for them. That may be a good end for the Bill, but it would be better if we could be assured that the people who live around licensed premises can be protected and that some lines will be drawn in the sand and some conditions imposed.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, everybody agrees that the licensing laws are outdated and in severe need of reform and that, in reforming them, we must reduce the level of alcohol abuse and of crime and disorder. However, the assumption that allowing people to drink all night will achieve either of those objectives is manifestly untenable.
The Minister departed from reality when she painted a picture of string quartets in pubs and of maiden aunts sipping their glass of Marsala in a neighbouring establishment after a visit to the theatre. That will not happen. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, put her finger on it when she pointed to the effect on local residents. We heard about that time and time again from the local authorities that came to speak to us at the meeting chaired by the noble Baroness last week. We saw a horrific video, presented by Councillor Simon Milton, about what happens in Westminster late at night.
It is not the fault of the licensing system that some people's idea of having a good time in the evening is to stay out as late as possible and get paralytic. However, the trend has been to make access to alcohol easier at all hours, and that does not help. The Government are saying that it is socially acceptable for people to drink round the clock, if they want to, and that the Bill will make that easier. The Bill is not about village pubs, in which there is often a generous interpretation of drinking-up time. In any case, the major chains are unlikely to accept the opportunity afforded by the Bill to extend opening times in such pubs because it would not be profitable to do so. We are talking about city centres and, to a lesser extent, places on the periphery of cities such as, in London, Ealing, Romford and Bexley, which used to close down at 10 p.m.
As the noble Baroness would confirm, what is likely to happen around the country can be experienced now in Westminster. As the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, pointed out, Westminster already has 583 late-night licences, including 86 places that do not close until 4 a.m., although the serving of alcohol finishes at 2 a.m. The impact of that regime on local authorities, the police and the accident and emergency services of central London hospitals is horrendous.
The police tell us that extra officers have to be found to deal with alcohol-related disorder in Westminster and in other centres around the periphery of the capital. Therefore, fewer officers are available to deal with other crime in the whole of the metropolis. In all those places anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol is a large-scale social menace.
The police say that they could make five times as many arrests as the do, but they do not have the resources to manage the numbers of people who would have to be processed without dangerously weakening their capacity to respond to crime by taking too many officers away from the front line. Already, hundreds of officers are occupied with difficult, uncooperative and sometimes violent detainees and in waiting hours for the injuredwhether they be drinkers or their victimsto be tended in the accident and emergency departments in the capital.
The Government say that the police support the Bill. However, that is true only to a certain extent. The idea that flexibility of hours will lead to staggered and more orderly dispersal from licensed premises is an aspiration that the Association of Chief Police Officers shares, but they warn that more officers will need to be on duty until later at night. ACPO, the Met and the CO14 Clubs and Vice Unit have a long list of caveats. DAC Andrew Trotter, at a meeting chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said:
Late night drinking in city centres under the present regime is dominated by clubsnot working men's clubsand discos which have capacities of up to 2,000 people. What they call "small and intimate" is a place that holds 650 people, such as the Casa Loco in Leeds, while the Area in Watford, holding 1,500, would be described as medium sized. The effect of those clubs in residential areas can be easily imagined. The Police Federation chairman, Fred Broughton, has said that areas outside clubs were descending into "disorder and anarchy". It was in the Majestyk in Leeds that Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate got tanked up before a fracas in which a young man was seriously injured. Similar, if less high profile, cases are happening up and down the country.
The only research on the link between those establishments and accident and emergency departments is a study conducted in Liverpool where a well run club, Cream, collaborated with the Royal Liverpool University Hospital. The researchers found that assault injury was the commonest reason for attendance at A&E departments by clubbers and that alcohol was the contributory factor of most importance.
The association has no way of knowing whether all night drinking is likely to increase the hazard. The Government do not know either. Obviously any outlet wanting to extend its hours does so in the expectation that it will sell more alcohol. No sensible licensee will incur the extra cost in terms of staff time and overheads unless that amount will be recovered, and more. Therefore, although you may not get the peak problems which occur at 11 p.m., the volume of alcohol consumed throughout the night will be higher and the harm correspondingly greater.
I am not against the tidying up of legislation. The Bill needs to deal with antiquated laws. Unfortunately, it is based on the false proposition that there can be 10 per cent more establishments selling alcohol and 20,000 opening all night without police, health, environmental or social costs. On the contrary, large extra human and financial costs will be imposed on society and will make life intolerable for thousands of people who live near concentrations of pubs and clubs. The licensing laws should be applied so as to restrict alcohol abuse, particularly by vulnerable 16 to 24 year-olds, and not encourage it as those proposals will do.
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, during the debates on the licensing Acts in the 19th century the Church of England earned the somewhat derisive title of "the brewers' friend". I do not rise to contribute to your Lordships' debate in a spirit of puritanical fervour but, like previous speakers, I applaud those parts of the Bill which seek to reduce crime, disorder and alcohol abuse.
I should declare two interests. The first is that as a Bishop caring for parish communities, and particularly schools, in some of London's entertainment hot spots, like other noble Lords I see and experience every day the impact of noise and nuisance created by the saturation of licensed premises. Schools such as Soho Parochialwhere the largest group of pupils are London Chinesedeserve to be heard and are vitally concerned about the outcome of the debate.
Speaking for them and other residents with whom I am in touch, I would like briefly to record agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, who spoke about the well-documented problems of crime, disorder and alcohol abuse and the fact that, as drafted, there seems to be no power, unlike the situation in Scotland I understand, for a local licensing authority to refuse to grant more licences simply on the grounds of saturation in a particular area.
The second issue is, in sympathy with other speakers, that, although the drafters of the Bill state a laudable intention to empower residents, there is a concern from bodies like the Open All Hours Group that the effects of the legislation will burden residents. The Minister, Dr Kim Howells, is on record as stating that:
The other interest which I seek to declare is as the chairman of the Church Heritage Forum, which brings together a number of Church and statutory bodies. At present, concerts and similar events within a place of worship are exempt from the need for licensing, always with the exception of London, which has enjoyed another regime under which a licence is required but no fee is payable if the entertainment concerned is of an educational character or given for a charitable purpose.
One of the stated intentions of the Bill is deregulation. Therefore, I ask what the justification is for introducing a new layer of regulation and expense for community activities. Where is the evidence of abuse that justifies removing an exemption which Parliament provided in 1982? I have seen nothing in the explanatory papers which even begins to address the question of places of worship or the implications for them.
I appreciate that the Bill provides that entertainment incidental to a religious service will be exempt from licensing. I am glad that we are not being asked to consider such a Soviet-style proposal. But the kind of concerts and plays which would seem to be caught by this legislation would, as far as I can see, range from the Brownies' end-of-term concert to the Three Choirs Festival.
No church would want to avoid regulation intended to ensure public safety. However, we have concerns that over-regulation of entertainment in buildings which do not seem to present safety problems when used by congregations will deter parishes and others from hosting community events. That would of course run counter to government policy, as expressed recently in the paper A Force for our Future, which
Other key objectives which emerged from the White Paper leading up to the Bill included the encouragement both of tourism and rural communities. The role of churches and cathedrals and other places of worship in drawing visitors to different parts of our country is well documented, while the contribution made by activities held in places of worship to life in rural communities in particular is incalculable.
Looking at the likely costs of this extension of regulation, I do not believe that some of the fears that have been expressed are at all unwarranted. The Government's own assessment suggests that a charity holding two events a year could expect to pay £40 per annum or £400 over 10 years. As for full licensing, it is not clear from the examples given in the Government's regulatory impact assessment whether a church or a cathedral would be more likened to a pleasure boat at the lower end of the scale or to a night club at the higher end. But in the following calculations I have at every stage taken the minimum figures. They could of course be substantially more than I have calculated.
From the figures provided in the assessment, we can assume that each fully licensed church and cathedral and other place of worshipI am in consultation with friends not only in other Christian Churches but in the Chief Rabbi's Office and the Muslim Council so this is not a narrow or denominational pointwill have to pay £300 for the initial licence and including annual inspection fees £800 over a 10-year period. The Church of England alone has more than 16,000 parish churches. If 10,000 were able to manage with temporary events notices for four concerts a year, the cost of that would be £800,000.
If the remaining 6,000a conservative figuresought a full licence, and many churches hold at least half a dozen concerts a year, the initial cost would be a minimum of £1.8 million. That gives a minimum total of £2.6 million in the first year alone and for the Church of England alone. I must emphasise that I am not seeking to make a merely denominational point, but to express concern on behalf of all places of worship.
The figures seem small in comparison with the sums often under discussion in your Lordships' House, but for voluntary organisations they represent a significant new burden and involve more onerous administration. The present Government have sought to be generous to those charged with the upkeep of the nation's inheritance of historic places of worship. The DCMS has been active in concert with the Chancellor, for example, in attempting to lighten the burden of VAT payments on repairs to listed buildings. The faith communities are grateful for the £3.8 million of relief already granted by the end of August.
My plea is a very simple and modest one: that the value of those tokens of support for the huge voluntary effort which goes into sustaining the inheritance of the whole community should not be substantially
Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, this Bill is wide-ranging and complex and I suspect that it will need considerable thought, debate and discussion as it goes through its Committee and Report stages. The Bill provides new regulations for the sale and supply of alcohol and the provision of regulated entertainment and late-night refreshments. The licensing objections are set out in Clause 4 and I will refer to them later.
The Bill provides for a dual premises and personal licence system for commercial premises, and for non-profit-making members' club premises certification for bona fide clubs. It is my intention to concentrate on non-profit-making clubs, but before doing so I want to say to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that the all-party parliamentary Members' clubs are aware of the discrimination to which he referred. We will be considering the matter, taking advice and consulting on whether we can attach an amendment to the Bill which will rule out all forms of sex discrimination in all clubs. I trust that if we do so, we can count on his support.
I strongly agree with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, about parish and village halls. I live in the outer reaches of the borough of Warrington and in all the villages in that area the village halls are the centre of cultural, leisure and sporting facilities. All the organisations use the village halls for their annual and sometimes biannual fund-raising events which keep them going throughout the year. If they were restricted to a limited number of occasions on which they could use the halls for those purposes, we would have a revolution within rural England that has nothing to do with the other well known group. It would cause problems and I hope that my noble friend will give serious consideration to that point.
A non-profit-making members' club is, in essence, a club in which every member has a single share of equal value and a single vote which members exercise to elect their club officers and committee members annually. Any profit that the club makes is ploughed back into the club, generally speaking to improve the club facilities and the amenities for the benefit of members. Every registered club is granted its licence by the local licensing magistrates for a specific period, and it must be renewed by the licensing Bench as the term comes to an end. Any club which the local police force has reason to believe has not complied with the terms of its licence can have its licence objected to by the police and the magistrates have the power to reject the licence application. That would mean the closure of the club.
I should make it clear that I am speaking on behalf of non-profit-making members' clubsperhaps better known as working men's clubsand similar types of organisation. I also declare an interest as a member of
I should also make it clear that, on this occasion, I am representing the views of the Committee of Registered Clubs Association, better known by the acronym CORCA, which was created 18 years ago. One of CORCA's principal objectives is to ensure that the voice and views of the members of working men's clubs in their various formats is heard in Parliament, particularly in relation to legislation such as the Licensing Bill. To facilitate that aim, CORCA works in close association with the All-Party Clubs Groupwhich is in fact one of the biggest all-party parliamentary groups.
CORCA is an umbrella organisation with the following organisations as full members: the Working men's Club and Institute Union, better known as the CIU; the Association of Conservative Clubs; the National Union of Labour and Socialist Clubs; the National Union of Liberal Clubs; Royal British Legion Clubs; Royal Naval Association Clubs; and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation. That formidable organisation represents more than 5,000 clubs and more than 5 million members across the length and breadth of Great Britain. I am personally proud of the fact that I was the only MP who was both a founder member of the All-Party Clubs Group and a founder member of CORCA. In fact, I was elected vice-chairman of CORCA at its inaugural meeting, in 1984, when I was also representing the National Association of Labour and Socialist Clubswhich I did until 1996.
As the leading clubs representative organisation, CORCA welcomes the Government's intention to maintain the distinction between pubs and clubs by means of a separate certification system for clubs. We also warmly welcome the retention of key club features of current licensing law. One example is the preservation of arrangements for CIU associates, and for similar affiliates of other CORCA organisations, to enjoy the amenities of affiliated clubs which they visit. These arrangements essentially allow any member of, for example, a CIU-affiliated club to purchase a CIU affiliate's cardas the overwhelming majority of members in fact doand to use that card to visit any other CIU club, where he or she can purchase drinks and participate in the club's amenities and facilities. The arrangement applies across Great Britain. All the other CORCA club organisations have similar arrangements for their own clubs and members. The affiliated membership arrangement is a vitally important part of club life, and CORCA is grateful that it will remain unaltered.
Probably the biggest and possibly the most controversial administrative change is the proposed transfer of licensing functions from magistrates to local authorities. CORCA is generally supportive of this change in licensing functions. It believes that local authorities know the make-up and needs of their own districts and localities better than any other organisation and that such knowledge should be the
The All-Party Parliamentary Clubs Group shares two particular concerns with CORCA which were discussed at length at their meeting on 19th November in the House of Commons. It is felt that these concerns should be recorded on Second Reading of the Bill.
The first concern relates to club entertainment such as stage acts, music and dancing. Club entertainment has always been an integral part of club life. On Friday and Saturday nights, and sometimes also on Sunday and other nights, almost every club in the land puts on live entertainment for the benefit and pleasure of their members and their members' guests. This entertainment generally generates little or no profit for the club, with the cost of the entertainers and the extra bar staff generally exceeding the profit of the bar sales. Profit, however, is not the issue; the major consideration is the provision of quality entertainment for the enjoyment and pleasure of members. I also remind noble Lords that, over the years, many entertainers have started their careers on the club circuit before achieving national and even international recognition.
However, the Bill provides, both in Clause 1 and in Schedule 1, that the traditional forms of club entertainment would rank as "regulated entertainment". As I said, clubs have hitherto laid on entertainment for the enjoyment and relaxation of their members, and they have done so with minimal regulatory interference, albeit with proper regard to fire safety and to health and safety requirements. Entertainment for club members and their guests is currently not subject to public entertainment licences. Under this legislation, such events would constitute "regulated entertainment". At this stage, however, it is anyone's guess as to what the precise regulatory constraints will be. CORCA and the All-Party Clubs Group will oppose the imposition of any additional burdens or operational constraints on a sector which has been largely trouble free and self-policing.
The supply of alcohol to club members for off-premises consumption is the second major concern of CORCA and the All-Party Clubs Group. Current licensing law specifically allows such supply, but, as Clause 69 makes clear, this legislation would not allow it. I should like to make it clear to the Minister that this minuscule activity has never been a contentious part of the clubs' activities. CORCA and the All-Party Group see no good reason why club members should be prevented from taking home a bottle of Guinness or a
A Bill's Second Reading is the time for constructive criticism and for suggestions on specific provisions. I therefore trust that my noble friend the Minister will accept that, while welcoming much of the Bill's general thrust, CORCA and the All-Party Clubs Group will seek to influence the final content of the Bill and its subordinate legislation so as to avoid excessive regulatory and bureaucratic burden on already hard-pressed club management committees.
The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for fighting against a failing voice and managing to give us a full outline of the objectives of this Bill, and I wish her a speedy recovery. She made a case for the benefits which would flow from the Bill's passage, but I cannot agree with her that this legislation will sweep away much of the red tape and bureaucracy that currently surround our licensing law. Before going further, however, I must ask for the forbearance of the Minister and the whole House as I have a longstanding dinner engagement this evening. It will therefore not be possible for me to stay for the whole debate.
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