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The Secretary of State has quoted many people tonight. What does she think of the comments of Dave Daley, head of the National Association of Licensed House Managers? According to yesterday's edition of The Observer, he said that house managers were already being incentivised to the tune of £20,000 to ensure that people stayed in the pubs after 11 pm, drank doubles rather than singles, and drank more shots in between. There is a policy that encourages people to binge drink.
Pubs that act in that way risk being closed for breaching their licence conditions. The law
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has been strengthened. The voluntary code is being developed, and if licensees do not adopt it, it may become a licence condition. Pubs and clubs that think that that is how the new legislation benefits them should beware, because they risk losing their licences and their livelihoods if they behave in such an irresponsible fashion.
Research and police evidence clearly showthe Act is predicated on thisthat there are two surges in street disorder, at 11 pm and at 2 am. Those are the chucking-out times for pubs and clubs. Pubs that chuck people on to the streets at exactly the same time generate the drunken loutishness that is captured on CCTV and in our newspapers throughout the summer. We know that the national curfew, dating from 1917, does not curb disorder but makes it worse, and we know that it does not prevent alcohol misuse but makes that worse as well.
Rob Marris : My right hon. Friend has touched on a point that was raised by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) at least three times, relating to staggered hours. Staggered closing times are very desirable. In Wolverhamptonthe premier nightclub spot in the west midlands, of coursethat is effectively what we have had, thanks to the closing hours granted by the licensing committee. They have de facto led to staggered hours, but other places do not currently operate such hours, given that many establishments empty out at 2 o'clock in the morning.
The curfew ensures that the law-abiding millions in this country, who might like the chance to enjoy a night out beyond 11 o'clock, are not allowed to do so. Meanwhile, those who do not abide by the law get away with doing so more often than not, because the police simply do not have the necessary powers to take decisive action. So in punishing everyone for the crimes of the minority, we have managed to deprive them of one of their freedoms of choice, and have done little to punish the minority.
All that will change on 24 November. At last, the balance will be tipped the other way. Adults will be given the freedom to have a drink after 11 o'clock, if the local authority and local residents agree. New and locally accountable procedures will ensure that the community decides whether to vary opening hours.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con):
I am incredibly grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. I am very intrigued by her comments about local accountability. Will she address the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) and the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell), who said that
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local councillors, whose job it is to represent local people, are not allowed to speak up at licensing meetings on behalf of residents in their own wards? Unless they go through the convoluted process of putting such points in writing, they cannot represent their own constituents. Is that not outrageous?
Tessa Jowell: If it were true, it would be outrageous, but the fact is that where local councillors are acting as representatives of those whom they represent, they have the power to do just thatto represent them.
The quid pro quo that this Act creates for the majority is also matched by the introduction of draconian new powers for the police to mete out swift and heavy punishment to the pubs and drinkers who abuse that new freedom. They can fine people on the spot for disorderly behaviour, and they can close down pubs that cause a nuisance. They can take away licences, and they will soon be able to declare an area that is persistently disorderly as an alcohol disorder zone, in which publicans will have to pay a levy to help cover the costs of extra policing. In addition, for persistent offenders there will be drink banning orders. Make no mistake: from 24 November, yobs will have to answer for their behaviour in a way that they have never experienced before.
Tessa Jowell: I want the police authorities to know that they have the Government's full backing to use the new powers conferred on them to the full. I want publicans to understand that they have a duty of care to their customers and to local residents. The majority run respectable houses, and they will get the support that they need to keep things that way. But publicans who run disorderly pubswho turn a blind eye to under-age drinking and persistently serve people who are already drunkare on notice. I say to them directly that they have a month to mend their ways.
The House will remember that in July, the Opposition predicted that there would be chaos by November as the process of applying for new licences collapsed; that the Government had not done enough to publicise the requirements; that not enough applicants would have applied; that the views of residents would be ignored; and that licensing authorities would be unable to cope with the 6 August deluge. I can tell them today that they were wrong on all counts. We expect almost 100 per cent. of the premises that need licences to have them by 24 November. Application rates have already passed 97 per cent., and the publicity efforts of central Government, local government and industryworking in an effective partnershiphave worked well. Residents have engaged with the system in large numbers, as we hoped they would, because of the new democratic accountability that we have brought to the system, giving power to local communities.
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Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): My right hon. Friend alluded to the contribution that local residents can make to the process, and in practical terms that reflects what has happened in my constituency. As part of the review, will she revisit the notification process? Many people still have not seen the blue notices in the premises or the newspaper adverts. Will she also confirm that local authorities and councils can notify residents that an application has been submitted?
Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and I can confirm that last point. I also undertake that when we review and update the guidance, because we will have moved beyond the transition period, we will certainly take account of the point that he makes.
Some 95 per cent. of cases in which representations were made have been successfully negotiated with the local authority and the licensee. So having painted a lurid picture of chaos on our streets, the question that the right hon. Member for Maidenhead should answer is: which of the police's new powers does she want to delay? Does she want to delay the police's extended closure powers in respect of individual premises? Does she want to delay the new closure powers for environmental health officers? Does she want to delay the increased penalties for breaches of licence conditionsa point that was raised earlier? Does she want to delay the increased penalties for selling alcohol to children? Does she want to delay the tough new penalties for irresponsible retailers?
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