Criminal Justice and Police Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Charles Clarke: I am always happy to flesh out my vision of any aspect for the Committee.

On the main point of the amendment, without getting into arcane discussions about local versus regional, it would be fundamentally confusing to have two different authorities dealing with the matter. The responsibility of dealing with it should be given either to the Greater London Authority, or to the local London boroughs. It should be given to the London boroughs rather than the GLA, because the issues need to be considered as locally as possible. The idea of the GLA designating some part of Havering or Redbridge is absurd. It would be much more appropriate for the local authorities concerned to do so.

There are serious arguments surrounding the issue of the centres of major cities. However, Westminster city council and the City of London have a lot of experience of dealing with such national, citywide issues. Although they are only borough councils, we can be confident that they would handle those matters well. It would be confusing to include the GLA in the organisations that have these powers. It is right to go to the lowest possible level, which in London is that of the borough councils. That is why I oppose the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire.

On the question of boundaries raised by the hon. Gentleman, all local authorities have a boundary question. Clearly, the problem can be more acute in urban areas. There is also the entertaining council tax and borough services argument, exemplified by the dispute between Lambeth and Wandsworth concerning closed circuit television cameras in streets and so on.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West): It is obvious that the residents of a local authority bordering on a designated area in another authority would hardly thank their elected representatives on the council if their area became a refuge for drunken yobs hurling abuse at the police across the road. Is the problem not just a perceived one, rather than one that reflects democratic realities in local authorities?

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is entirely right about situations such as that which he has just described. People will respond and deal with such situations as they come along. However, it might help if the guidance that we issue under clause 15(4) refers to the need for local authorities to discuss the situation with neighbouring authorities. That is probably unnecessary, as they would do so routinely, but it may help if we give that assurance, just to clarify the point so that any particular issues that may arise can be dealt with.

Just as we are requiring local authorities to take account of the views of residents it is reasonable, for the reasons given by my hon. Friend, to require them to take account of the views of neighbouring authorities in the event that a designated area borders such an authority. That should minimise the problems although, for the reasons that my hon. Friend gave, they are hypothetical. They may be so, but it is appropriate for such consultation to be part of the process. I hope that, on that basis, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath will seek to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Hawkins: The Minister helpfully clarified the point in relation to the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire. There should be some recognition of the issue in the guidance, because local authorities do not always meet at the same time and in the same week. An incident might occur on the edge of a place recently designated by a local authority before the bordering local authority has had the chance to meet. As the hon. Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) said, that might be a matter more of pure theory than of reality. However, it would help if that were clarified in the guidance.

I understand what the Minister said about the Government's decision to leave matters to the individual London boroughs. It was helpful for us to hear that from the Minister, and it was right for us to raise the issue. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said, in a backhanded contribution, that although he did not agree with us, he thought that the Government should agree with our amendments. Perhaps that, of itself, means that it was proper for us to raise the issue. However, we have heard what the Government have said, and we think that we have achieved our purpose in tabling this probing amendment. I do not seek to prolong the debate, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19

Closure of certain licensed premises

11.45 am

Mr. Simon Hughes: I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 10, line 6, at beginning, insert—

    ``Following a first and second warning''.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 130, in page 10, line 8, leave out ``reasonably believes that'' and insert ``has evidence that''.

No. 81, in page 10, line 9, leave out ``is likely to'' and insert—

    ``are reasonable grounds to believe that there will''.

No. 131, in page 10, line 9, leave out ``, or in the vicinity of,''.

No. 34A, in page 10, line 9, after ``or'', insert—

    ``in a place for which the licensee is responsible which is''.

No. 36, in page 10, line 9, after ``the'', insert ``immediate''.

No. 82, in page 10, line 9, at end, insert ``and related to''.

No. 37, in page 10, line 10, leave out

    ``is necessary in the interests of''

and insert—

    ``will significantly assist in securing''.

No. 132, in page 10, line 12, leave out ``,or in the vicinity of''.

No. 35, in page 10, line 12, after ``or'', insert—

    ``in a place for which the licensee is responsible which is''.

No. 76, in page 10, line 12, after first ``the'', insert ``immediate''.

No. 83, in page 10, line 12, after ``of'', insert ``and related to''.

No. 38, in page 10, line 13, leave out

    ``is necessary in the interests of''

and insert—

    ``will significantly assist in securing''.

No. 84, in page 10, line 15, after ``(c)'', insert—

    ``having made a request to the holder of the licence to act reasonably by reducing or ceasing the emission of noise from the premises''.

No. 133, in page 10, line 18, at end insert—

    ``following at least one request from a uniformed police officer to the person ostensibly having control of the premises to end the disturbance.''.

No. 39, in page 10, line 18, at end insert—

    ``(1A) A closure order may only be made on the grounds specified in subsection (1)(c) if the senior police officer has given notice to the licensee that he intends to make the order, and the licensee has failed to take appropriate action to quell the disturbance.''.

No. 77, in page 12, line 26, after second ``or'', insert—

    ``in a place for which the licensee is responsible which is''.

No. 92, in page 12, line 30, after ``Act,'', insert—

    ``a request having been made to the holder of the licence to act reasonably by reducing or ceasing the emission of noise from the premises''.

Mr. Hughes: Amendment No. 4, which is tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Jackie Ballard), has collected rather a large group of other amendments, which are not in either of our names although some of them, for example amendments Nos. 84, 133 and 39, touch on similar issues.

As so many groups of amendments relating to clause 19 have been tabled, in opening the debate I shall put on the record what the notes on clauses say about the context, which will explain why my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton and I have tabled amendment No. 4. We are considering part I of the Bill—the second subsection of chapter II, which deals with the closure of certain licensed premises due to disorder or disturbance.

Whereas the previous debate was about disorder on the street, this one is about disorder in licensed premises. Clause 19 is designed to amend existing legislation, specifically the Licensing Act 1964, to which we referred in the previous debate. It provides for an additional clause, albeit a long one, to be inserted into that Act by this Bill, to allow a senior police officer to make a closure order for a licensed premises. The definition of licensed premises in this proposed additional clause would not include non-profit-making registered clubs such as working men's clubs or the Royal British Legion, unless they had a justices' licence, as opposed to permission to sell drinks only to their members.

Police officers of the rank of inspector and above would be given that authority. They would not be required to be present at the scene; they would be able, although absent, to act on reports from officers of lower rank who, presumably, would be present. That would allow them to hold the ``reasonable belief'' on which a closure order would have to be based. Thus officers on the street or in the pub could radio through to the station and obtain permission from their boss to make a closure order.

There are various descriptions of how the officer should make an assessment, and amendments have been tabled by the hon. Member for Reigate and others that relate to those issues. As the clause is drafted, the senior police officer must reasonably believe one of three things: that there is likely to be disorder in the premises or in the immediate vicinity of the premises, so that the closure would be necessary in the interests of public safety, including customers; that there is already disorder in, or in the immediate vicinity of, the premises, so that they need to be closed for public safety, or that there is excessive noise in the premises, such that they must be closed to prevent a disturbance.

Mr. Blunt rose—

Mr. Heald rose—

Mr. Hughes: I give way to the hon. Member for Reigate.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 27 February 2001