Licensing Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Moss: I am unsure whether I understood the Minister's logic, although I tried to follow it carefully.

I am saying that at the point of sale, the contract between the retailer and the buyer is crucial. If there is no onus on that retailer to make absolutely certain that the supply or sale of alcohol takes place within the remit of the legislation, the provision is at fault. He or she ought to be accountable in some way.

Jim Knight (South Dorset): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Moss: In a moment.

I accept the Minister's argument that the initial problem may be detected by the police—or whoever—

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at the warehouses, or between the warehouses and the addresses to which the alcohol is delivered, and they may end up with the retailers by following that trail through. However, when they get to the retailers, can they put the finger on the important ingredient, which is that they are the people who did the deal and did not make all the necessary checks?

A balance must be struck between the retailer and the warehouse. According to our reading of the Bill, at present the call centre or other retail centre gets away scot free, and the onus of responsibility is on the management of the warehouses. They are simply given an address, and they package the goods and send them off. Is the Minister saying that they must check and double-check with the retailer to ensure that everything that must be done has been done?

Dr. Howells: May I explain—but I am sorry, I am jumping the queue; my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight) has already asked to intervene.

Jim Knight: The Minister has a right to speak first, as he is a Minister.

Dr. Howells: The answer to all the questions that have been asked is yes—but this is a serious matter. Clause 144(1) makes it an offence for anyone anywhere to sell alcohol to children. Under that clause, there is an onus on the retailer to ensure that there are no sales to children. Therefore, there is no reason why—if it is necessary—the trail of responsibility cannot be followed to the retailer who made the initial sale.

However, it will often be the case that the retailer will own the warehouse. There is nothing to prevent that from happening. It may be exactly the same company.

Mr. Moss: That is not a problem.

Dr. Howells: I agree. In some circumstances, however, where for whatever reason a different arrangement is in place, we must be able to ensure that the enforcement agencies have a place or body to which they can go, where there is a person responsible for the supply of alcohol to customers.

10 am

Mr. Moss: The Minister has argued robustly and is obviously not going to give any ground. However, as recently as early March I had discussions with the Wine and Spirit Association. The amendments were tabled even more recently. At that time some concern was still being expressed. The Minister's meetings with that body may predate that meeting and it may, perhaps, still be concerned about the issue. I suggest that contact be made to ensure that everything has been covered. I understand that the association still has some doubts about the efficacy of the provision and it would be helpful for all parties concerned if those could be resolved.

I urge the Minister to consult that part of the industry one more time. However, in the light of his comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 187 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 188 and 189 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 190

Other definitions

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 429, in

    clause 190, page 104, line 30, after 'effect', insert

    ', and includes the area within the curtilage of those premises'.

This is a probing amendment. We have had lengthy discussions in earlier debates about the definition of a licensed premises. The amendment seeks to define clearly what we mean by licensed premises, including their various parts. For a pub, for example, that might relate to its garden and car park areas. We want to ascertain whether, with the wording of the Bill as it stands, the Government are content that areas contiguous to what we consider to be the premises in the ownership or curtilage of the club or pub will be included in a full definition of the premises in a licence.

Mr. Turner: I would like to add some further questions to those asked by my hon. Friend. Mr. Chris Troup has raised another issue. He provides a marquee at Bembridge airport, which is the subject of occasional licenses.

The Isle of Wight is an extremely entrepreneurial place. The only deficiency in the entrepreneurial activities of my constituents became apparent over the weekend, when I undertook a short stretch of ''Walk the Wight''—a charity fundraising walk from Bembridge to the Needles. I was surprised that nobody had applied for an occasional licence for some of the spots along the route, where we were refreshed with Lucozade and water but not, alas, with alcohol. Even my constituents can improve their entrepreneurial skills.

Mr. Chris Troup, however, is a master of entrepreneurship. Like my hon. Friend, he asks what the licensable area is. If someone provides a marquee at an airport, or an aerodrome being used for microlight flying or a fly-in day, for example, over what area is the licensee expected to exert control?

My interpretation of the legislation is that what matters is the point at which the licensee sells the drinks for consumption on or off the premises. If the drink is consumed on the premises in a glass—or, as is unfortunately more frequent these days, a plastic beaker—the licensee is responsible. He is responsible within the marquee, but how far does the purchaser of the drink have to venture along, say, the grass adjacent to the runway, before he ceases to be the responsibility of the licensee? Does the licence apply merely to the area within or just outside the marquee, or does it go further afield, perhaps for the mile or mile and a half of the length of the runway?

In case there should be any mistake about it, I must emphasise that am not advocating that people should purchase alcohol and then pilot aeroplanes; however, like my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, I would like to know what the extent of the curtilage is in such circumstances.

Dr. Howells: As the hon. Member for North-East

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Cambridgeshire told us, this is only a probing amendment; however, it is interesting, and I have learned a great deal about this subject since considering it. I see that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight is interested in it, too.

Clause 190 provides definitions for a number of terms used in the Bill. It states:

    '''licensed premises' means premises in respect of which a premises licence has effect''.{**w34**}

The amendment would add to that definition the words:

    ''and includes the area within the curtilage of those premises''.

That is fascinating.

Clause 18(3)(b) requires an application for a premises licence to be accompanied

    ''by a plan of the premises to which the application relates''.

The Secretary of State will prescribe the exact form of the plan. It will have to show clearly the extent of the premises, and which parts will be used for which licensable activities. Anything that is not on the plan, and is not described as the premises in respect of the application, will not be part of the licensed premises, and licensable activities could not be carried on there.

Under the Bill, ''premises'' can of course mean any place. The word is not limited to a building or any land that attaches to it. It can include a beer garden, a car park or a pavement, even where the pavement does not belong to the premises owner. The use of the term ''curtilage'' in the amendment is therefore a red herring. The term is defined in the ''Shorter Oxford English Dictionary'' as

    ''A small court, yard or piece of ground attached to a house and forming one enclosure with it''.

It is most commonly used in conveyancing, and is taken to mean the space immediately around a building.

Under the current licensing regime, a court might consider the curtilage of a building in reaching its decisions, but as ''premises'' is given its widest possible meaning under the Bill, we fully expect that there will no longer be any reason for the court to do so. A piece of land will either be part of the premises, as described in the application and shown on the plan submitted with it, or it will not.

Hon. Members might be trying to ensure that problems that take place a short distance from the premises, rather than on them, can be addressed. I assure them that that can be done without the amendment. If people standing in the street outside the premises cause a noise nuisance, for example, that could be grounds for local residents to ask for a licence to be reviewed. Similarly, the police might request a review if fights took place just outside the premises between customers leaving to go home. In addition, the interpretation would distort the ordinary meaning of the word ''curtilage.''

We do not intend to change the meaning of the word ''premises'' to include anything other than the place where licensable activities are conducted, and, under the system that the Bill will introduce, there is

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no need to do so. If activities are to be carried on within the curtilage of the building, that extent will be the premises for which the application for a premises license is made. It would not therefore include the mile and half of runway at the aerodrome to which the hon. Member for Isle of Wight referred, but it would include the area within the marquee and, if the effects of drinking in the marquee became an obvious nuisance, the immediate area outside. The amendment is unnecessary, and I hope that in light of my explanations the hon. Gentleman will withdraw it.

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