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I beginas it was the first issue to be raisedwith the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, on the guidance. It is not draft guidance but the framework for guidance. I have not seen it at all so I come to it absolutely fresh. It is in the consultation phase at the moment and will be published by spring 2003; in other words, it will be available for some but not all of the consideration in Parliament. However, the important elementthe powers and functions of the licensing authoritieswill not be found in the guidance. That is on the face of the Bill for us to debate.
I hope that I may refer to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, without provoking him to rise to his feet. I hope that he will accept that we have to balance adequate consultation with parliamentary scrutiny. I also hope that he will agree that that, combined with the fact that the guidance is to be had regard to, not to be obeyed implicitly, puts the matter in the proper context.
Saturation and cumulative effects were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. We have considered the matter carefully and we take the view that limiting the number of licensed premises in a particular area is not practical. I recognise the arguments for that, but where a planning application is required for a new licensed premises it will have been considered fully by the local authority. There would be no point in the licensing system duplicating the planning regime. If we started to refuse new licences on the ground of saturation, would that not result in a skew towards the older established premises, some of which may themselves be the source of disorder? There might be considerable commercial objection to freezing the licensing situation in any one area on the basis of the number of premises involved.
London and inner London were mentioned by the noble Baronesses, Lady Gardner and Lady Thornton, and by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. Inner London has seen a reduction of 11 per cent in the number of on-licensed premises over the past three years. I do not think that that problem is getting worse or that dramatic remedies are required to deal with it. In any case, the Bill contains a number of measures that are designed to benefit local residents. Local residents will have a stronger voice than ever before in licensing decisions. The establishment of clear licensing objectives on crime and disorder and public nuisance will govern all licensing decisions.
There has been much reference to Clause 4, which mentions the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. But it does not state that the Bill will deal with those fundamental social problems. It states:
It is trueI refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, on this pointthat residents, police, environmental health officers and others will be able to call for a review of licences. There will be a great deal of opportunity for that. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that accident and emergency departments of hospitals would be able to do that. There will, of course, be police powers to close on the spot premises that are a source of disorder or noise nuisancea point to which reference was made on a number of occasions, particularly effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for which I am grateful. There will also be police powers to confiscate alcohol in sealed containers.
Fundamentally, we are saying that the introduction of flexible hours is intended to widen consumer choice and reduce the density of drinkers in existing centres and at existing limited times. It may not fit in here, but I resist the idea that we should revert to fit and proper judgments on individuals or to any vague ground put up by the police or anyone else. If we restrict ourselves, as the Bill does, to unspent convictions, we shall achieve measures that can be enforced, whereas I am far from sure that other matters can be enforced.
A number of speakers, including my noble friend Lady Thornton, raised the important issue of problems that occur outside licensed premises. I make it clear that we do not intend to make licensees responsible for the activity of patrons away from their premises. However, we believe that the provisions of the Bill will reduce the opportunity for concentrations of disorder, if I may put it in that way. The fact that the proposed measures will be enforced in conjunction with the planning authorities and the police powers to which I have referred and the fact that the Government are taking steps to improve the infrastructure of our
I turn to the point concerning churches, village halls and places whose primary purpose does not come within the purview of any licensing legislation. I can give an assurance straightaway that bell ringing and carol services do not require licences. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London knows, there has been a disparity between the situation in Greater London and areas outside Greater London, in relation to which we have to make a distinction. We must rationalise that position and make the same provision for both London and other areas elsewhere. Our position is that where churches are not used for religious activities but for secular performances, there is no justification for treating them differently from any other charitable body that seeks to raise money.
The issue here is the risk to the public at any public entertainment venue. That risk is neither increased nor diminished by the fact that it is staged by a charity rather than a commercial body, nor is it increased or diminished by the fact that it is conducted in a consecrated building. We shall make it clear in guidance that it would be wholly inappropriate to attach disproportionate conditions to licences affecting churches and other charitable institutions. Incidentally, raffles and lotteries are not covered by licensing procedures, provided that the alcohol is in sealed containers, and I believe that most raffles and lotteries comply with that requirement.
I turn to the question of the transfer of power from licensing justices to local authorities. The present position is that there are five different licensing regimes with local authorities and one with licensing justices. I stress that that involves licensing justices, who act in an administrative way, not magistrates' courts. We are reducing those six regimes to one. Surely that must be a worthwhile rationalisation. Currently, justices handle only liquor licences and local authorities handle all the rest.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that there is of course no intention to phase out magistrates' courts; I believe that she was being mischievous in suggesting that that had been said. She wanted a denial and she has got it.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I point out, once again, that I am only quoting what we were told by an outside organisation. It said that it had been told by officials that magistrates' courts were being phased out.
I turn to the cost of enforcement, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. It must be more economical to have a single licensing regime, in which one puts in one application for liquor licensing and one adds on to that all of the other elements that one wants. I think of those other elements as music and dance, but that is old-fashioned wording.
The fees that are charged for licences will be set nationally, but they will be varied for different types of establishment. As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, one does not set the same fee for a huge central London pub as one does for a village pub. One does not set the fee for an outdoor rave eventI refer to the noble Lord, Lord Walpoleas one does for an event in the village hall. To avoid disparity between local authorities setting their own fees, it is right that central government should initiate the fees. I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is not with us. It is important that the body should be responsible to the local community, but we should take steps to ensure that it is not subordinate to any particular pressure group within the local community. We expect that the local authority panel undertaking licensing will not contain the councillors from the ward in question.
Local authorities will be able to impose conditions on a licence where it is necessary to do so in order to promote the licensing objectives. Their discretion will come into play only in cases in which a relevant representation has been made.
With reference to Clause 177 and in relation to local authorities, the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, used the phrase, "Not in my backyard". The protection to which I have referred deals adequately with that point. Local authorities deal with local matters and they have the right to do so because they are elected to do that. Surely that is the right way for the Bill to be drafted.
There was some misunderstanding about the nature of licensing policy which local authorities will draw up and review every three years. I make it clear to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in particular, that that will be the policy of local authorities, not that of the Secretary of State. In so far as the Secretary of State will impose by regulation, he will do so in relation to matters such as methods of consultation and time periods for consultation, for example, which have to be the same throughout the country, rather than in relation to the policy that the local authority will draw up for the scope of restriction by licensing in its own area. Because the licensing system will be a single licensing system for all of the aspects that we have discussed, we estimate that it will save the industry just under £2 billion over the first 10 years.
I turn to the issue of how the costs will be set. They will be set centrally at a level that will recover the full costs of the licensing regime. That will avoid the problem of the variation, which has existed in the past. Following on from the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I do not believe that it would be a good idea to set the level according to the amount of alcohol consumed. After all, that is taxed with duty and VAT, and that would interfere with the cost-recovery principle. Of course, my noble friend Lord Evans is entitled to a positive answer on the matter. Proper consultation on licensing fees will be carried out with local authorities and representatives of the businesses affected. That will include the associations of clubs for whom he spoke.
I want to make an important point relating to the issue of music. The premises licence would cover any combination of permissions for alcohol, public entertainment and late-night refreshment. It would, of course, include music. No renewals would be involved. We estimate that the fees would be in bands ranging between £100 and £500 with a higher fee for large-scale, one-off events, such as pop festivals. That is because of the amount of inspection required for festivals of that kind. There will be an annual charge to maintain a revenue stream to cover continuing inspection and enforcement. However, we shall consult on those charges and we do not believe that they will be very large. The noble Lord, Lord St John, was concerned about that point but I believe that he can be reassured. It is possible that the bands will also affect lump fees in London.