|Licensing Bill [Lords]
Mr. Moss: As the Minister said, this is a probing amendment. He has given an assurance that the guidance and regulations relating to the application for a premises licence, which have yet to be set down by the Secretary of State, will cover all angles. There might be grey areas in respect of some activities: for example, people might buy beer in a pub and stray into the car park to drink it, which is when problems arise. If the regulations and guidance made it clear to the applicants that they must include every possible area in their plans, that would address what we were attempting to achieve through the amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Turner: I beg to move amendment No. 491, in
'''protection of children from harm'' includes protection from harm to the aural system caused by excessive noise;'.
My amendment is designed to establish whether the licensing authority has, in protecting children from harm, responsibility for protecting them from the harm caused by exposure to excessive noise such as the sound of particularly noisy band recordings on licensed premises.
The organisation Hearing Concern tells me that the statistics for noise-induced hearing loss are getting worse because of a variety of environmental, occupational and leisure-related factors. Today's 18 to 25-year-olds are putting themselves at three times the risk of hearing loss experienced by those in the same age group just 10 years ago. My amendment does not cover 18 to 25-year-olds, but children—I assume that those over 18 are capable of making decisions for themselves. Hearing Concern says that with the increasing exposure to noise throughout people's lives come acceleration of hearing loss and a population that is increasingly hard of hearing.
Employers are required to take action to assess the level of noise exposure where it is likely to exceed 85 dB, and to review that in the light of circumstances that might alter the noise level. They have a duty to minimise noise exposure where it exceeds the first action level so that it reduces the risk of hearing loss to their employees. It is my contention that children should be at least as well protected from excessive noise as employees.
I can give some indication of what 85 dB means: it is somewhere between a shout, a doorbell or a vacuum cleaner and the point at which a road drill reaches the
Column Number: 654level of discomfort. That seems to be a broad range. A shout, a doorbell and a vacuum cleaner can reach 80 dB; a road drill reaches 90 dB. A football crowd or a concert reaches 110 dB—I do not know whether we are talking about the Allegri string quartet or Steeleye Span—[Interruption.] Steeleye Span was just an example; I cannot help it that is the only noisy group whose name I can remember. The hon. Member for South Dorset is in mocking mood, but I am sure that that example is good enough for most members of the Committee.
My question is simple; will the clause enable licensing authorities, which have a responsibility to protect children, to take account of the damage caused by excessive noise?
Dr. Howells: This is another interesting amendment. I am convinced that in years to come, the generation now aged between 18 and 30 will be seeking the services of expensive lawyers to chase compensation for leisure deafness caused by the technology that allows such massive amplification inside cars and other enclosed spaces. The volume in some cars is extraordinary, and would put Steeleye Span all into their hat.
Jane Griffiths (Reading, East): All around their hat.
Dr. Howells: Yes, ''All around my hat''. Was that their only hit? I cannot remember.
People who were aware of the risks but for whom the lure was too great are now chasing cigarette manufactures and tobacco companies for compensation; it will be interesting to see whether the same happens with noise. I recognise that the amendment is probing, and I shall try to give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks.
The amendment would make protecting children from harm include
That is an important issue, and not only for children, although I accept that the risk might be higher for young people. I confirm that the licensing objectives of public safety and the protection of children from harm would provide an opportunity for this issue to be raised. However, we need to keep the risks in proportion, and we should not deny children access to particular forms of cultural entertainment. At previous sittings we discussed the fact that children under the ages of 18, or 14, attend discos that would drive me insane were I to say there too long; but the kids appear to love them.
Research makes it clear that the risk of harm to the aural system depends on the level of noise and the length of exposure. Indeed, the Musicians Union publishes a helpful information sheet, albeit directed at the protection of performers rather than audiences, which makes that very point. Exposure to a symphony orchestra, at about 94 dB, or a rock band at 125 dB, should not necessarily raise a great deal of concern if it is of limited extent and frequency. I hope the hon. Member for Isle of Wight will agree that we need to be sensible about the issue, and not venture too far
Column Number: 655towards the nanny state; I am sure that he is no more fond of that than I am.
We should also bear in mind that every application for a premises licence, club premises certificate, variations and so on, will need to be copied to the responsible authorities, including the Health and Safety Executive and the environmental health authority. If an application raised genuine issues of public safety or the protection of children from excessive noise, we would expect those authorities to make representations to the licensing authority to that effect. The licensing authority would be required to hold a hearing to consider those representations, and it could impose such conditions as were necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives.
I hope that those reassurances will be sufficient to answer that viable probing amendment, and that the hon. Gentleman will seek leave to withdraw it.
Mr. Turner: I thank the Minister for his answer, and beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 190 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 191 to 197 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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