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Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 gives local authorities the powers to try to prevent the cumulative impact of a concentration of places where people might drink standing up or lying down. I hope that all local authorities will be serious about trying to apply those powers.
In the Wirral, there is another concern. On weekday and weekend evenings, part of the centre of the Birkenhead resembles the wild west on speed. We are worried that such centres will spread to other parts of the Wirral where there are currently no licences. If the local authority and local Members can devise a suitable amendment, will my right hon. Friend consider favourably granting local authorities the powers to refuse the first licence if they fear that the relevant area will go the same way as the centre of Birkenhead?
Mr. Clarke: We will consider such aspects. The Licensing Act 2003 and the Bill allow local authorities in the Wirral and elsewhere, working with the police, to define matters of greatest concern. As I shall explain shortly, I hope that the Bill gives the powers that are needed. However, the short answer is yes; if necessary, we shall consider amendments to deal with such an eventuality.
Responsibility must ultimately lie with the individual. However, the industry and licensed premises also have a role to playthat is a critical point. Legislation, therefore, has a firm part to play. I shall set out the five provisions on alcohol-related violence that the Bill includes.
Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): My right hon. Friend mentioned the responsibility of the licensees and the licensed premises. Does he know about the scheme in Blackpool, whereby the Licensees Forum works constructively with the local authority and the police, who then police licensed premises in the Blackpool area? Will he consider the expansion elsewhere of such schemes, for example the excellent night safe scheme, and of good practice, so that the licensed premises, the police and the local authorities genuinely work together to ensure the safety of those who want to drink in the evenings?
I agree with my hon. Friend. Blackpool is one of the parts of the country where all sectors of the community, including the people who run businesses
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and know that they will be successful only in a climate that is secure for the wider community, work together. People have come together in a scheme to which I pay tribute. In my constituency in Norwich, a similar relationship operates in the nightclub areas. That has been positive. I believe that the provisions will encourage people to consider the example of Blackpool and elsewhere and make progress in their communities.
The Bill contains five specific provisions to deal with alcohol. The first is drinking banning orders. The measure provides for a new civil order, called a drinking banning order, which can be made against an individual who is engaged in criminal or disorderly conduct while under the influence of alcohol, and when such an order is necessary to protect other people from further harm. The order could impose any provision to protect others from criminal disorderly conduct while under the influence of alcohol. The length of the order will be between a minimum of two months and a maximum of two years. The order will be much more targeted than antisocial behaviour orders. Although ASBOs may be relevant in some circumstances, drinking banning orders will be more appropriate when the basic problem is binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled behaviour, pure and simple, and when there is a need for more flexible time limits on a ban.
Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): As I understand it, under current legislation, magistrates can impose a drinking ban on somebody convicted of an offence on licensed premises. However, it is also important to be able to impose a ban on those who are convicted of offences such as disorderly behaviour outside licensed premises. Will the Bill allow that to happen?
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is entirely correct, and the short answer is yes, it will. The drinking banning order is necessary precisely for the reason that he implies. It is important to deal with disorder within premises, but it is also important to have powers to deal with disorder outside premises in areas in which a large number of premises are grouped together.
Mr. Clarke: Drunk and disorderly behaviour is specifically an offence relating to someone's drinking. The new offence will allow a drinking banning order to be put in place when the problem is not simply one of drunkenness but of other antisocial and disreputable behaviour in the locality. I regret to say that such instances are only too common.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): The Home Secretary will remember that, when we were discussing the so-called 24-hour drinking proposals, we suggested that they should be held off until the effectiveness of these alcohol disorder zones and drinking banning orders had been proven. Will he assess their effectiveness regularly during the early part of their implementation?
Very much so. We shall look very carefully at their effectiveness not only before the
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legislation comes into force but throughout their existence. We shall also ensure that there is every opportunity for licensees to behave in the way described by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble), and to get their act in order. That would be the best solution for many of the places that we are talking about.
The second measure in the Bill involves the direction to individuals to leave a locality. The Bill also provides for new powers for the police to issue a direction to leave a locality to an individual aged at least 16 who is in a public place, and to prohibit his or her return for up to 48 hours. A direction could be given if the presence of the individual in the locality was likely to cause or contribute to alcohol-related crime or disorder, or to its continuation or repetition. A direction could be given to a person involved in any offence or disorder where alcohol was involved, and the provision is not limited to those offences relating specifically to drunk and disorderly behaviour.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): I am trying to understand the place of local authorities in the strategy that is being put forward. There is an oddity in the Bill that I cannot explain, but I hope that the Home Secretary will have an explanation for it. In relation to the drinking banning orders, clause 11 gives a role to county councils but not to district councils where a county council exists. However, it is the other way round in clause 17, which deals with alcohol disorder zones. I fail to understand the purpose of that distinction.
Mr. Clarke: The orders are different, and the key relationships are those between the local authority on the one side and the police on the other. That runs right through this legislation. However, I am quite happy for any inconsistency between county and district councils in regard to particular orders to be explored in Committee, if the issue would be better served by such a debate.
Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): As I understand it, there would be no criminal accusation made in regard to someone being asked to leave a locality. However, loss of reputation could result from any publicity involved. If an individual were incorrectly identified by the policeand such errors will eventually be madewhat recourse would he have, other than to go through the police complaints procedure?
Of course, a person would have recourse to the police complaints procedure, and to getting his or her case taken up in that way. However, I want to make a serious response about proportionality. In relation to the hypothetical situation in which a whole series of offences could be committed in a particular area, the sanctions that we are proposing are not enormous. Examples include an individual being asked to leave a locality for up to 48 hours, or the imposition of a drinking banning order lasting between two months and
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a maximum of two years. I acknowledge that there will be consequences, however, and if an individual has been wrongly accused, he will be able to have his case taken up. However, there is a difference in proportion between an issue of that kind and some of the other scales of penalty that can be applied, and that needs to be taken fully into account.
The third measure covered here relates to alcohol disorder zones. As I have said, as well as individuals, the industry and licensed premises have a major role in helping to end the binge-drinking culture, for the simple reason that nearly half all violent crime is alcohol-related. One in five violent incidents take place around pubs or clubs, and 35 per cent. of hospital accident and emergency admissions are alcohol-related. That rises to 70 per cent. between midnight and 5 am. Parts of too many of our towns and cities have become unpleasant places to visit on some evenings, and that can be exacerbated by a mixture of poor operating practice in certain sections of the trade and public spaces having to cope with large numbers of people heading for the town centres.
I welcome the steps that some in the trade have already taken to raise operating standards. Initiatives such as the one mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood, the best bar none accreditation scheme first launched in Manchester, and the constructive work of the trade associations to develop clear standards for responsible retail of alcoholfor instance, the recently published document on drinks promotionsare steps in the right direction, and we want to encourage them. There is more to be done, however. The Licensing Act 2003 gives the police and local authorities more powers to come down hard on irresponsible operators, and we need to make sure that the powers to review licences are used to their maximum potential.
I nevertheless think it incumbent on us all to face the fact mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley). Much alcohol-related disorder in town and city centres at night takes place in the streets around pubs and clubs rather than inside them. That requires a change of approach.
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