Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman is correct that it is open to the Chairman to receive representations concerning further sittings of the Programming Sub-Committee. If I receive such representations from the usual channels, and it appears reasonable, the Chairman is of course at the Committee's disposal and I shall endeavour to accommodate the Committee. However, I point out that we sat for a considerable time last night and the Committee has further discussed the issue this morning and has just passed the Programming Sub-Committee's resolution. At the moment, those are the terms under which the Committee will now sit. Under those terms, we have probably had sufficient discussion on the subject.

Dr. Ladyman: On a point of order, Mr. Gale.

The Chairman: One moment, Dr. Ladyman. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have made the point that time is at a premium. We are now spending time discussing matters that could properly be discussed outside the Committee and informally, rather than discussing the matters that we are here to discuss formally. Unless the hon. Gentleman has a specific point to make, I propose to proceed.

Dr. Ladyman: On Second Reading, I said that I wanted amendments to the Bill to help to protect scientists, one of which was an amendment to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to prevent terrorists from acting in concert. Have you, Mr. Gale, been given any indication whether the Government intend to table such an amendment in time for us to discuss it in Committee?

The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough to know that however much Chairmen may wish it, the Government do not normally make their intentions known in advance to Chairmen of whatever party. However, the hon. Gentleman has made his point, the Minister has heard it and, again, I am sure that that can be discussed informally.

[Mr. Jimmy Hood in the Chair]

Clause 27

Enforcement of closure orders

Question proposed [27 February], That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question again proposed.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. David Lock): I rise briefly to respond to the point made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath about clause 27(1)(b). He questioned what was meant by the expression that a constable who is attempting to enforce a closure order may

    ``do anything reasonably necessary for the purpose of securing compliance with the order.''

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Hood, with a brief explanation that the constable is entitled to do anything which is reasonable that he considers necessary. If there is something which is reasonable that the constable considers necessary, it is plainly appropriate for him to be able to do it. I would not have thought that the Committee would greatly benefit from further discussion of the meaning of such plain, usual and much used words.

Mr. Hawkins: I previously said that Opposition Members regard the wording as wide. We still think that. However, the Minister has given his explanation, and I shall not seek to press the matter further.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28

Offences by body corporate

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Simon Hughes: The clause is perfectly reasonably intentioned, and relates to the debate about who is held liable in practice and how the corporate liability of the owner of the licensed premised is tied up with the practical liability of the person on site. Is that part of a general proposition by Government, or is it restricted to licensed premises? There are often issues in relation to liability and corporate responsibility. As I understand it, there is an implied connivance of the ownership if anybody, in any of the positions—especially a manager—is liable.

Mr. Hawkins: Has the precise wording about corporate responsibility been used in other legislation? Will the Minister write to members of the Committee to tell us whether the Government intend to use such wording more widely, not only in future licensing legislation but in legislation generally, and whether there are specific precedents? If he will undertake to do that, I will be satisfied.

Mr. Lock: The first issue raised by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey was whether the provision was part of a general proposition by the Government to define the responsibilities of corporate owners. The Department of Trade and Industry is currently undertaking a wide-ranging review of corporate governance. As far as criminal statutes are concerned, the liability of those associated with companies, who stand behind corporate entities that are responsible for ownership or control of premises, must be determined case by case. In response to the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, the wording of clause 28(1) is based on the equivalent clause in the City of Westminster Act 1996, which refers mainly to sex establishments, although this clause refers to alcohol establishments.

It would not be helpful to conduct a wider trawl of legislation, whether passed under this Government or under previous Governments, for the equivalent form of words, for the reason that I gave in answer to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. Liability must be determined case by case, depending on the mischief against which the offence is determined. We must compare like with like.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29

Service of notices

Mr. Lock: I beg to move amendment No. 122, in page 23, line 24, leave out `a copy of'.

This is an entirely technical amendment. Under subsection (6), a document that is to be served under clauses 21 to 28

    ``shall be taken to be duly served if a copy of it is fixed in a conspicuous position on the premises which are alleged to have been used for the unlicensed sale of''

alcohol. To constitute proper service, there is no doubt that the document itself, rather than a copy, should be so affixed. The amendment is designed to assist those against whom this offence is directed, and I commend it to the Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Simon Hughes: Does the service of notice procedure in the Bill differ from current law? I have neither the time nor the resources to establish whether the clause will vary that procedure, so if there is a difference I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary would explain what it is. If the procedure is exactly the same as under current law, it is clearly uncontroversial.

Mr. Lock: The provisions for service depend on the precise circumstance in which a document is served. For example, service on an individual differs from service on premises, which is modelled on the City of Westminster Act. I am not aware of any way in which these provisions differ from other provisions of service that are customarily expected, so I do not consider them controversial.

Mr. Hughes: I am prepared to accept that. Given that I gave no notice of my question, I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary would ask his officials to check on this matter. As I have repeatedly said, if people are not to be caught out by technicalities, the law must be as consistent and clear as possible. We do not want to give further work to lawyers—to use the Parliamentary Secretary's phrase—by requiring them to establish whether there was service and whether people knew there was service. We must ensure that the procedures are streamlined, common and collectively similar and will apply common time limits, regardless of whether the notice is being served on an offending pub, amusement arcade, sex shop or anything else.

Mr. Lock: The point is well made and I shall ensure that my officials look carefully at what I have said when it is published in Hansard. If there is any way in which my comments can be amplified or clarified, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and provide copies for other relevant members of the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 29, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 30 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31

Confiscation of alcohol containersfrom young persons

Mr. Charles Clarke: I beg to move amendment No. 123, in page 24, line 11, leave out `substituted' and insert `inserted'.

This is a technical amendment that is necessary because the purpose of the clause is to insert the required wording in section 1(1) of the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997. The use of the word ``substituted'' is not appropriate, given that the clause will not substitute one set of words for another. We want to ensure consistency between the 1997 Act and the wording of this Bill in respect of the confiscation of alcohol containers from persons in designated public places. The amendment has been tabled in the interests of accuracy, and I hope that it can be agreed to.

Mr. Heald: This seems an entirely sensible amendment and we have no further comments to make.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

10.45 am

Mr. Simon Hughes: We dealt with the issue of open containers that might contain alcohol when we debated clause 14. I have no problem with the power to take, in certain circumstances, what looks like a can of lager, when no one could know, without taking it, whether it actually contained lager. Will the Minister assure me that there is consistency between this provision and the earlier one?

More importantly, the Bill significantly changes the law on alcohol and alcohol-related disorder in public places and it would be beneficial if the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997 was incorporated into the Bill. It seems pointless to keep a small Act, which was a private Member's Bill, on the statute book, with all the necessary cross-referencing, when it could be accommodated in the Bill. I would be happy to consider a proposal outside the Committee--I hope that Conservative Front Bench spokespeople would also be prepared to do that--to introduce a non-controversial, consolidating provision. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on my suggestion.

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