Licensing Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Hoban: I am trying to balance temporary event notices with operating statements. My concern is that the restrictions on temporary event notices are already tight. If anything, the rules are too tight and should be relaxed in some respects—we will come to the specifics later. The quid pro quo to relaxing those rules is that existing locations with premises licences will take advantage of the relaxations. The balance between temporary event notices and operating statements is overly restrictive in the case of temporary event notices.

I want to make sure that existing licensed premises could not take advantage of any relaxation in temporary event notices, which is why I should like to carve them out from any relaxation. I am conscious that there will be other opportunities this morning to discuss a relaxation on temporary event notices, and perhaps we will have more success in persuading the Minister to change his mind. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 96 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 97

The relevant licensing authority

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire): I beg to move amendment No. 236, in

    clause 97, page 55, line 11, leave out 'each of those authorities' and insert

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    'whichever of the authorities is agreed by those authorities unanimously to be the relevant authority, or if no such agreement is reached—

    (i) the licensing authority in whose area the greater or greatest part of the premises is situated, or

    (ii) if there is no authority to which paragraph (i) applies, such one of those authorities as is nominated in accordance with subsection (2)'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 301, in

    clause 97, page 55, line 11, at end insert—

    '(2) In a case within subsection (1)(b)(ii) the individual giving the temporary event notice under section 98 must nominate one of the licensing authorities as the relevant licensing authority in relation to the notice.'.

Mr. Moss: Good morning, Mr. Benton, and welcome back to the Chair. Amendments Nos. 236 and 301 have been tabled in my name and those of my hon. Friends. Clause 97 is, of course, similar to an earlier clause relating to licensed premises. It states that

    ''where the premises are situated in the areas of two or more licensing authorities, each of those two authorities''

must get involved, which is over-bureaucratic. There could be duplication because two sets of officers will examine such matters. If a sensible arrangement and agreement could be reached, those duties would pertain only to one of the authorities.

Amendment No. 236 would allow whichever authority has been unanimously agreed to be the relevant authority to take responsibility—in other words, the two authorities should discuss which of them should take on the role. If agreement cannot be reached, the licensing authority in which the greatest part of the premises is situated should be responsible. If that does not work, amendment No. 301 would kick in. It states that

    ''the individual giving the temporary event notice under section 98 must nominate one of the licensing authorities as the relevant licensing authority in relation to the notice.''

The amendments are designed to avoid duplication and two bureaucracies becoming involved. If two bureaucracies are involved, things can go badly wrong if communications between them are not ideal. The amendments are positive and will clarify the situation to allow everybody, including the person giving the notice and the relevant licensing authority, to know who is dealing with whom, which should ensure that serious problems are avoided.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): It is essential that the situation in relation to clause 97 be clarified. Without wanting to repeat the debate in the House of Lords, there are a number of instances within London authorities, which are obviously local authorities and therefore licensing authorities, where large entertainment areas straddle boundaries. The majority of Earls Court, for example, is within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea with a small area across the border—the railway line—in Hammersmith and Fulham. None the less, clause 97 is overly bureaucratic because it would ensure that both parties have a say. As it happens, there is an amicable long-term agreement between the two local authorities, which ensures that the Royal

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Borough of Kensington and Chelsea deals with Earls Court. That is partly because the overwhelming majority of the site is in the royal borough and partly for practical purposes relating to the railway and road routes.

It would clearly be over-bureaucratic if similar examples across London were not determined amicably between local authorities. Although I understand that the Minister is trying to implement a belt-and-braces approach, which he explained in relation to the previous clause on licensing matters to which my hon. Friend referred, it would be sensible for a single authority to be involved, rather than the obvious duplication, potential delay, bureaucracy and cost that would entail if we went down the route of clause 97. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's amendments.

9.15 am

Mr. Turner: I am interested in the amendments that my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) introduced. My approach to the amendments will depend on the definition of the word ''premises''. I am aware that the Minister told me during the last sitting that ''premises'' means the premises that are the subject of the application and only that part of the premises that is the subject of an application, if I can now use a broader definition of the word. Clause 190 defines ''premises'' not as that part that is subject to the application but as ''any place'' and goes on to say that it includes

    ''a vehicle, vessel or moveable structure''.

I am not going to trespass on the part of the definition that includes a vehicle, vessel or moveable structure at the moment, but it is clear from that definition that premises include not only an area that is a building or even a field, but could include an area that has no visible definition on the ground. It could include a part of an airfield, for example and in those circumstances I think that it is likely that premises could stretch over a boundary.

I am asking the Minister to consider whether the definition he gave me of premises last time is the right one. I do not want someone to come along and say, ''I am Mr. Wetherspoon. I own a pub in Westminster and another in the Isle of Wight, and I am going to make one application because they are one set of premises.'' [Interruption.] There may well be a lot of water between them.

Let us consider another eventuality. The Red Funnel company is a ferry company—it is actually the Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company—that owns premises at both ends of its operation. Could someone say that those premises are one set of premises because they are connected by a ferry? In such a case, part would be subject to the authority of Southampton city council and part subject to that of the Isle of Wight council. Is it so clear to be not worth discussing that such premises would be two sets of premises for the purposes of the legislation?

I do not want the cities of Westminster or Southampton to be determining applications for

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premises that lie in my constituency and I am sure that the Isle of Wight council would not want that to happen either. It is less likely to happen in my constituency because we do not have contiguous authorities as other constituencies do. However, others may enter into an argument about the desirability or otherwise of having decisions about their authority made by a different licensing authority.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham): Is it not also true that in the case of the Isle of Wight there would be a stretch of water between the two authorities? Unless the hon. Gentleman's constituents have come up with the novel idea of walking on water, would that not also be a reason not to class them as one premises?

Mr. Turner: It may interest the hon. Gentleman to know that he is right. He is observant: there is indeed a stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and Southampton. At certain times of the year it is possible to play cricket in the middle of that stretch of water. Bramble bank is exposed at low tide two or three times a year and a cricket match regularly takes place there.

Dr. Howells: Only the English would do that.

Mr. Turner: The Minister makes an appalling observation. It is because people of my race and origin were prepared to play cricket in the middle of the sea that we built an empire.

Mr. Hoban: You will be relieved to know, Mr. Benton, that I will not continue the cricketing theme.

It is not feasible to require a temporary event notice for a wedding on the Red Funnel ferry. One can imagine a situation in which a reception would begin at the company's offices in Southampton. The couple would board the boat and get married on it and then the boat would dock at Cowes for the end of the reception. Such an event would straddle Southampton, the water and the Isle of Wight and would involve two licensing authorities.

Mr. Turner: Indeed, I can imagine exactly such a situation, with the possible exception of being married on the Red Funnel ferry. I believe that a separate licence is required for that. You will be pleased to know, Mr. Benton, that it is not one that is covered by the Bill.

On firework night during Cowes week, Red Funnel ferries operate an excursion from Southampton that comes to the island, where people have an opportunity to watch the fireworks, and then returns to Southampton. Therefore, the question is whether premises can be so stretched that they might be held by more reasonable people than the applicant to represent more than one place.

My point about Bramble bank is that it is covered by water most of the year. It is not in the city of Southampton or in any of the adjoining councils of New Forest, Eastleigh or Fareham. Neither is it in the area that is covered by Isle of Wight council. Can the Minister tell me which licensing authority would be responsible for Bramble bank or for any similar part

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of the country that is exposed only at low tide two or three times a year?

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