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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: The Minister provokes me by his second attempt to isolate me from my colleagues. When it comes to the next stage of the Bill, he will find that there is widespread if not comprehensive dissatisfaction with Clause 4 and the public nuisance tests.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Let us wait and see. The objectives of the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm follow from much of what was said to us as a result of the consultation on the White Paper. They seem to achieve widespread support, perhaps not among the Opposition but among other people. We have to maintain a balance between the interests of the public and those of the industry. We have to ensure that the conditions are necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives. If there are objections to that, okay.
The effect of the Bill will be to remove considerable red tape. Licensing authorities have strong powers to take firm action where necessary. They can add to or amend the conditions set out by the applicant in the operating schedule where it is necessary to ensure consistency with the licensing objectives, and attach different conditions to different parts of premises. In the past, licensing authorities have in some cases simply imposed a raft of standard conditions irrespective of whether they were necessary for particular premises. They have been aspirational and, to some extent, arbitrary. Our system is different. It is flexible, and allows conditions to be tailored to individual premises, but the conditions have to be necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives.
I listened very carefully to the arguments put forward. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, talked about harassment or intimidation in order to prevent representations. That is a matter for the police. If there is any suggestion of harassment, the police must be expected to provide protection.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: The Minister really cannot get away with saying, as he just did, that we must not interfere with local authority discretion; those were his words. The point about the clause is that there is no local authority discretion.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My point was that we must not intervene with the views of local people and residents, local professionals and the local police. These are local matters and it is not true to say that Whitehall is dominating. It is for the responsible authoritiesthe expertsto make representations about the effect on the licensing objectives of the application. For example, with the crime prevention objective, the police will have a say and the environmental health authority will have a say in the case of public nuisance.
I appreciate some of the motivation behind the amendments and that it is desired to bring back the regime to some extent so that it is comparable with the current regime. I urge the Committee to consider what would happen if the regime went back so that hearings were a norm and the presence of the police at hearings was a norm; we should also consider the complications of the current system. The system that we propose allows for uncontroversial applications to go through, provided that they have been checked to be in accordance with the licensing objectives. It gives full opportunity for those outside who may have concerns to make representations and for those representations to be heard. We do not want to go back to the existing complex regime.
Viscount Falkland: I do not believe that it is simply us on these Benches or those on the Conservative Benchesthis is not a party matterwho support many of the points raised by my noble friend Lord Phillips. We share his concern about Clause 4 and the public nuisance test. We share it with people outside and with Members of the Committee on all sides. It sounds very good when the noble Lord says, as he did on several occasions, that we are making it easier to deal with simple and uncontroversial applications. I am not sure what a simple and uncontroversial application is and I should like to know what a complex and controversial one is in order to get a clearer idea. Perhaps we shall achieve that later.
What the Bill may entail is surprising to Members of the Committee and to those outsidethat is shown by our postbags and by reading the letters pages of various newspapers. We should not forget that all of this change is taking placealthough we do not oppose the basic proposalin a context in which
We come back to local residents. We must do everything in our power to protect the interests and right of local residents to lead peaceful and normal lives without a great explosion of activity because the new regime has not taken into account the serious consequences that may arise if licences are not examined and discussed and put to the test in the most severe way. That may sound as though we are going away from deregulation. But the whole Bill creates bureaucracy. The Minister says that it does not; but I believe that it does.
Whether or not that is so, we shall return to this point. It is at the core of the Bill in terms of the probable effect on local residents when we have what is effectively becoming a 24-hour drinking economy. I have no intention of pursuing the amendment at this late hour; it is meant to be probing. It is a complex point. I know exactly where the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is coming from. I understand what he is saying and the clever way in which he attempted to put to us a simple profile of what will happen. But it will not be simple. It will be extremely worrying for many people. We must ensure that those worries are examined and, where possible, mitigated. I therefore reserve the right to come back to this point at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: This group of amendments is so closely related to the previous discussion that I shall not need to go into great detail. It can be seen that the group consists of a large number of amendments. I shall say a few words but this is a matter to which we shall have to return on Report.
There are other provisions in Clause 18 to which we object, particularly subsection (6)(c). That involves the right to object to a person who has been nominated as a supervisor of the licensed premises. According to the Bill, only the police will have the knowledge upon which such an objection can be based. That must be wrong.
A licensing authority may already have relevant information about the nominated person. he or she may, for example, previously have been a licensee or a nominated supervisor in other licensed premises or may have committed misdemeanours in regard to public safety which did not come to the notice of the
It should not be solely the police who have the right to say whether or not a premises supervisor is suitable. It should be possible for a local authority, where appropriate, to use its knowledge. Also, in circumstances where a premises licence is granted, it is granted virtually in perpetuity and therefore it is important that the original granting should be correct. But Clause 18(9) stipulates that only the police will have their evidence taken into account. The same argument applies that it should be wider than the police; that other people should also have the right to make representations.
I have many pieces of paper about this matter, but they are so complicated and the amendments are so massed together that it is impossible to put them all together. Some are consequential to others. The amendment seeks to ensure that an officer of the licensing authority is able to make representations about an applicant for a premises licence in addition to the chief officer of police where the premises are situated.
The licensing officers of the council will be regularly inspecting the premises in the area. They are likely to have knowledge of any persons operating existing premises licences. We must take into consideration that the licences are not coming out of the blue to a completely new group of people who have never been in the trade or involved in any way before. Many of the people applying for licences will be known and will have a definite record, either good or bad, with the local authority of the way in which they have been conducting their premises.
The need for local authorities to have a greater degree of control in applying conditions was debated on the previous amendment. If it is known that nudity is to be allowed on premises, a restriction may be desirable. The issue of children has been raised. A local authority might wish to limit admittance to people of a certain age; whether it should be 18, which is the drinking age, or younger is another point for discussion. There is a need for the right to attach conditions in such circumstances. The local residents would certainly want such conditions attached. I beg to move.
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