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Lynne Featherstone: I suppose that this chapter is probably where lies most legislative disorder. In all the amendments, I am trying to separate the chaff from the wheat, the good from the bad, and the honest and good landlord from the misbehaving landlord. We have concerns about the one-for-all and all-for-one approach in the imposition of alcohol disorder zones. We have been promised that guidance will make a differential in charging between the good and the bad, but as yet we have not seen formal guidance of any clarity that would allow us to have confidence that there will be a sufficient differential so that good landlords are not penalised.
There should be cause and effect, and punishment should be set out in the Bill. There seems to be more emphasis on location than on behaviour. I am not sure that that is a good principle or approach in terms of charging. We need a more causal link to establish whether premises or a pub have contributed to alcohol-related disturbances. Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 would establish a causal link between the alcohol-related disturbance and the licensed premises, be they a club, a pub or whatever.
If responsible establishments are caught in an area where ADZs are brought into being and those responsible find that they have to pay the charge, that is not only unfair but is a disincentive for licence holders to maintain good standards, when they are effectively to be penalised by the irresponsibility of other establishments. This approach appears to be somewhat contrary to the Government's consultation paper, "Drinking Responsibly", which has very much targeted responsible premises.
As for amendment No. 33, as I have said, there needs to be a more causal link. For example, an area might border an alcohol disorder zone. That area might be blamed for disorders that occurred when it had nothing to do with the adjacent area. However, it could be included in an exemption. The adjacent area would bear the brunt of the result of drunken and disorderly behaviour.
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In stepping out of an ADZ one might go down a road along which there is a quiet pub where citizens are drinking responsibly until various times of the night, causing no disturbance. However, people coming from the ADZ make a noise and are riotous, and therefore are responsible for an extension of the zone. Through no fault of their own, the good pub owner becomes subject to charges.
Once consulted on and agreed by the local authority and police officers, some establishments will comply with the eight-week action plan and spend money to facilitate and adopt it. However, they might get to the end of the eight weeks and find that others in the group have not adhered to it and have not undertaken the steps agreed. The local authority will then impose the ADZ and charge those establishments that had done everything that was asked of them. They will be punished alongside those who did not follow the plan. That is inordinately unfair and was not considered in Committee. I hope that the Government take that on board.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): I am pleased to be able to speak against the amendment. The proposals for the alcohol disorder zones are an important tool to deal with the specific syndrome that has developed around drinking in some of our towns and inner cities. Of course some licensees are good, but others are worse. However, the sum effect of having a large number of drinking venues in a small area is a cycle of behaviour that is destructive to the environment in a town centre and to behaviour in general. It also has an effect on what happens to crime and disorder in those areas.
We all know of that type of behaviour, which I described to some hilarity in Committee. It ranges from the mildly disorderly to the outrageously criminal. Some serious fights can happen in the course of an evening. If we are to crack that behaviour, which damages the economy in the town centre, spoils the environment and is a massive drain on police resources, we must have an effective tool. The alcohol disorder zone provides just that. It makes it possible to consider the servicing of a designated area and to make the industry realise that if it is going to take large amounts of money from young people in the area, it also has to deal with the consequences of their behaviour.
Many sections of the leisure industry oppose the measure. Indeed, I consulted some licensees in my area and they were opposed to it. I can understand why. No one wants to pay out money, and they do not want to pay what they perceive to be an extra amount when they
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have already paid their business charges. However, there is good reason for saying that it is appropriate to charge people in the sector extra for the services that they receive.
One argument to support that is the amount that is made out of alcohol. When I went around with the police in my patch some time ago, I talked to licensees about the money that people spent across the bars. Northampton is reckoned to be part of the golden triangle for 18 to 24-year-olds, and they have one of the highest levels of disposable income of people in their age group anywhere in the country. The owner of one of the venues in the town centre thought that some of the best clients spent about £1,200 a person a month just on drink. That is an astonishing amount. High profits are to be made, and it is only fair that the industry is told about the costs of running the sector.
Any town centre business has to pay for a certain level of policing because town centres need extra policing. They also need more street cleaning because there is a heavier footfall. I would also arguethe industry needs to consider thisthat the cost of policing the late-night leisure industry is a disproportionate burden that should not be borne by general council tax payers. There is a disproportionate amount of littering from all kinds of sources. There is also more substantial cleansing because of people's behaviour when drunk. In addition, there is the completely disproportionate cost of policing.
The policing of Northampton town centreI guess other areas are the sameis a drain on the routine police resources that are supposed to cover the whole county. It is unjust that people who expect to pay for policing to cover burglaries and crime in the suburbs should have the staffing resources pulled into the town centre on a Friday and Saturday night to manage the behaviour of one section of the communitythe young peopleand to manage objectionable events, such as fights, which can also be serious crimes. People do not think that the police should spend their time chasing drunken young people and managing their behaviour in the middle of town. The football industry has had to take account of its special policing needs and the costs fall on the clubs. We should say to the leisure industry in certain areas, "Look. The costs are disproportionate and you have to bear some of them."
I hope that Northampton borough council takes note of the Bill and uses it to sort out the town centre. The problem with the amendment, as with other amendments throughout our deliberations, is that it would make the measures unworkable. That is wrong. On the causal link, the problem is what happens in a town centre as a whole, not in one pub. Young people will go from one licensed premises to the next in the course of the night. They will end up in the worst place, where the drinks are cheapest, but there will be problems right the way down the line. It is wrong to table an amendment that would make the provision unworkable.
The Liberal Democrats have to be honest. If they amend the provision and make it unworkable, they cannot turn around at a later date and say, "By the way, we want this, that and the other town centre to have an ADZ because it will sort out the problems." If we are to tackle the problem, the legislation must be workable. Tabling wrecking amendments shows that they oppose the provision and are using weasel words to get around it.
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I oppose the amendment. It is much better for the Liberal Democrats to stand up and say that they oppose alcohol disorder zones, if that is the truth of the matter, and I accept that there is an argument against them. However, I very much support the proposal. It is an important tool.
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