Licensing Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Moss: There we have it. The Minister has said it all, and not an inch has been given. There was not even an acknowledgement that all these good people have got together over lunch—today or yesterday—and agreed that there is not a problem. The Minister has just said that in his opinion the licensed victuallers are totally against the Government, but that is not the case. The hon. Member for Selby made that point after having spoken to them by telephone today—and, no doubt, having been in contact with them regularly during the past few weeks. The industry certainly wants the provision in the Bill, and nowhere in the arguments that I offered to the Committee did I hint at serious problems between the owner and the tenant or manager.

The provision could be helpful to the police, for example, if they turned up at premises where there were serious problems, the designated premises licence holder was not around, and the personal licence holder had disappeared. It would be in the interests of the police to know exactly who to approach to say, ''Your interest here in this location is in serious jeopardy, and it's up to you sort out the situation.'' I had a constituency case some months ago in which there were complaints about the state of a pub car park. A representation to the landlord or tenant bore no fruit, but I was able to contact the owner of the premises—it was a brewery—and within two days I had an answer, and action. If the public knew who had a vested interested in the premises it would be helpful in more ways than one in tackling some of the key objectives that we have been discussing, in particular those relating to law and order and public nuisance.

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The Minister talked about flexibility, but I do not think for a moment that the Government's intention will render greater flexibility. He talked about a case in which the designated premises licence holder had been changed by the premises licence holder. He said that a simple notification to that effect would suffice. However, our understanding of the Bill is that such a change would be a variation, so a whole new licence would have to be applied for. Perhaps the Minister could clarify what he meant. It is not our understanding that such changes can be effected easily by simple notification. We thought that if there were a fundamental change of licence holder, that would constitute a variation and a new application would have to be made. That is not decreasing the bureaucracy; in our opinion, it is dramatically increasing it.

We believe that if the interest of the owner of the premises is noted in that way, owners will take a greater interest in their pubs and outlets. Given all the other provisions in the Bill that may militate against their interests, licence holders will want to ensure that the individuals on the ground running their enterprises are complying with the law, and are doing so in a way that will not attract the type of opprobrium, problems, objections and complaints that could make their businesses suffer if licences were withheld for any reason.

Licence holders therefore have a vested interest in knowing what is happening in the various outlets—for some chains, that means in hundreds of different outlets. With the best will in the world, and perfect management, there will always be problems. The provision simply highlights the fact that licence holders have an interest and can act positively to fulfil the Government's aims and objectives if they are encouraged and brought on board. The amendment introduced by their lordships strengthens rather than weakens the legislation.

I am happy to withdraw my amendments. I have already said that amendment No. 87 has been overtaken by our discussion on an earlier clause. However, we shall oppose amendment No. 9, because we believe that clause 9(1)(d) has almost universal support. There is support from Back-Bench Labour Members and from the Conservatives. I cannot speak for the Liberal Democrats, but no doubt they will pipe up in a moment to say that they are in favour of retaining that provision. Perhaps they have already done so. [Interruption.] I beg the pardon of the hon. Member for North Devon; he already has said that.

The provision also has the support of the trade—the British Beer and Pub Association. If representatives from the Local Government Association are listening to our deliberations, they should reconsider what they are telling component parts of the Committee and the Government, because we seem to be getting mixed messages. However, my understanding, which was corroborated by the hon. Member for Selby, is that the LGA is happy for the provision to remain in the Bill. As for the Licensed Victuallers Association, although it expresses concern about interpretation and wants a guarantee that the provision will not undermine its rights under present

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legislation, it is happy to see the provision stay in the Bill.

At no time did the Minister attempt to justify this fundamental shift. He did not explain the necessity of changing the right enshrined in the Licensing Act 1964, why that provision has not worked, or why it is working against the public interest. Why is the right for those involved in the trade being removed?

Dr. Howells: I apologise; I should have explained that the existing right in the 1964 Act makes sense because managers hold the only licence and their employers do not. Under the new system in the Bill, the employer—the business—would normally hold the premises licence, so the two arguments cannot be properly compared. It is like comparing chalk and cheese.

Mr. Moss: I am not sure that I agree. Why else would those who have an interest in the premises argue for the retention of the provision in the Bill? The Minister shrugs his shoulders; he does not know. I shall move on. We shall oppose the amendment, and I suspect that the subject will return on Report if we are defeated and the Government get their way today. The issue is important, it seems that there is universal agreement on it—[Interruption.]

Dr. Howells: No.

Mr. Moss: The only people who do not agree are the Minister and his officials in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Opposition, and many people with a vested interest in retaining the provision, think that he and his Department have set their face against it. Hitherto, no powerful arguments have been brought forward to justify its removal by amendment No. 9.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 9, in

    clause 9, page 5, line 41, leave out paragraph (d).—[Dr. Howells.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 5.

Division No. 8]

Blizzard, Mr. Bob Crausby, Mr. David Howells, Dr. Kim Jones, Mr. Kevan
Kemp, Mr. Fraser Knight, Jim Linton, Martin

Field, Mr. Mark Harvey, Nick Hoban, Mr. Mark
Moss, Mr. Malcolm Turner, Mr. Andrew

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 9, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Kemp.]

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes to Five o'clock till Thursday 10 April at five minutes to Nine o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
Gale, Mr. Roger (Chairman)
Blizzard, Mr.
Crausby, Mr.
Field, Mr. Mark
Griffiths, Jane
Grogan, Mr.
Harvey, Nick
Hoban, Mr.

Column Number: 202

Howells, Dr.
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Kemp, Mr.
Knight, Jim
Linton, Martin
Moss, Mr.
Turner, Mr. Andrew

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