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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have already been cited as the bellman and now I am in the role of Dr Doolittle with a pushmi-pullyu. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and my noble friend Lord Clarke want to make the rules for temporary events tougher, while the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, wants them to be relaxed.
However, how can we distinguish in legislation between these types of premises? I suggest that it would be extremely difficult to do so and that the exemption now being sought would in fact make it difficult to put in place adequate control over the kind of community hall that I have just described. The amendment would allow an unlimited number of temporary events involving licensable activities to take place in village halls. In effect that would allow widespread circumvention of the licensing laws. Furthermore, it would undermine the balance we have sought to achieve between a light-touch regime and the protection of local residents.
I had thought that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, would oppose the amendment. It would have been logical and consistent for him to do so. We could be in danger of ending up with a system where alcohol could be sold from, or entertainment put on in, village halls all year round without the need of a licence and thus with no opportunity for local residents to object.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I am deeply disappointed with the Minister's response. Already I am drafting an amendment to table at Third Reading. Perhaps I should extend it to apply to community halls that have no bar.
Quite on purpose we limited the amendment to cover only village halls because we are talking about what are essentially small village halls where there is no bar and people bring in any alcohol that is to be drunk that evening. It does sound idyllic, but I am proud to say that it is also real. That kind of activity and way of life, in spite of all the bullying and bureaucracy from central government, continues unabated at the local level. We should celebrate and encourage it for the years to come by ensuring that, in a Bill of this kind, we do not make life more difficult for local people working voluntarily and trying to do whatever they can to keep local communities together.
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