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Having dealt with the context of ADZs, may I turn to the specifics of the Lords amendment, which covers local authority powers to designate an ADZ following publication of the action plan? The amendment reaffirms the belief that the local authority has no power to designate an ADZ if licensees have implemented the entire action plan. It imposes an additional check on local authorities, preventing them from designating an ADZ if the majority of steps set out in the action plan have been put into effect by licensees. The intention behind the amendment is not at issue. The action plan is the important objective, and we want to ensure that there is every opportunity to deliver it. However, we do not believe that the proposed subsection is needed or is workable. It is not needed, principally because the Bill does not give any powers to
local authorities to designate an ADZ if an action plan has been implemented. As I have made clear to the House, local authorities can designate if licensees do not comply with the steps in the action plan.
The proposal is unworkable, because a one-size-fits-all check would hamstring local authorities, preventing them from designating an ADZ if the majority of steps have been taken. It may be the case that the 51 per cent. of actions taken are not the most critical actions in the action plan. However, as I said, we are sympathetic to the intention behind the Lords amendment. We strongly believe that it is not needed, and would be unworkable, but the Lords concerns can be dealt with in guidance. Clarification about the extent of local authorities powers and the flexibility that we want in relation to the action plan will be reflected in the guidance.
I draw the Houses attention in particular toclause 16, which provides that the Secretary of State must publish guidance on ADZs, which the police and local authorities have a duty to follow. Since the debate on ADZs in another place, we have developed that guidance. In particular, I am grateful for the help of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, with which we worked to produce a piece of guidance specifically addressing that matter and other issues discussed in another place. I can offer assurances to the House that the guidance includes clarification that local authorities powers to designate an ADZ focus on non-compliance with the action plan by licensees; local authorities cannot designate if the entire action plan has been implemented. Time is an important factor, and the action plan does not have to be implemented in full within weeksthe local authority must be satisfied that enough steps have been taken in the action plan to make the designation of an ADZ unnecessary.
The local authority should ensure that implementation of the action plan is appropriately monitored and that it actively engages with licensees over the eight-week period. Ample warning should be given to licensees if the local authority feels that designation is appropriate. Flexibility should be shown over action plans, based on local needs. Local authorities should waive the need for compliance with all the steps set out in the published action plan where it is considered that the overall objectives of the action plan can still be delivered. I have provided more detail on what the guidance covers in a letter to the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). I leave the House with those assurances.
Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): Alcohol disorder zones, which we support, are designed to deal with a serious and growing problem. Only this month, the British crime survey reported that the proportion of people saying that drunkenness was a very big or fairly big problem in their neighbourhood has risen to well over one in five. Of those who report experiencing antisocial behaviour in the previous year, nearly one in 10 say that they see drunkenness or rowdiness every day and more than a third say that they see it every week.
Of those people worried about drunkenness, most report difficulties with noise and littering by drinkers, but, worse, nearly a third have been troubled by drunks urinating in public or fighting. Indeed, 1.2 million violent incidents are alcohol related. That is half of all violent crime. The Cabinet Office has reported that 61 per cent. of the population perceive alcohol-related violence as worsening and one in five violent crimes takes place in or around pubs and clubs. Nearly 70 per cent. of those crimes occur at the weekend. Nearly half of all victims of violence describe their assailants as under the influence of alcohol at the time. In our major cities, but also in once peaceful towns throughout the country, decent peoples lives are being made a misery by wholly unacceptable behaviour that is too often fuelled by alcohol.
The measures proposed in the Bill in relation to alcohol disorder zones, under which the establishment from which these problems emanate should contribute towards the costs of dealing with the problem, are the right ones. The Cabinet Office estimated that alcohol-related crime costs the UK £7.3 billion a year in policing, preventive services, processing offenders through the criminal justice system and the human costs incurred by the victims of crime.
The Lords amendment, which was moved by Baroness Anelay, relates to our concern that the Bill appeared to allow local authorities to pre-empt completion of the action plans that precede alcohol disorder zones, even where progress was being made in dealing with the problem. Lords amendment No. 27 attempts to deal with that problem by preventing an ADZ from being designated if a majority of the steps in the action plan have been put into effect.
The Government have set out their concerns about the amendment and I agree that, for instance, it would not make sense to prevent a local authority from designating an ADZ simply because a numerical majority of steps, which may be the less important ones, in the action plan have been met. Since the amendment was agreed in the other place, the Government have explainedas the Minister has todaythe guidance that they have developed in consultation with the industry, which should address those concerns. In particular, the guidance states that an action plan does not have to be implemented in full, that it should be carefully monitored, that ample warning should be given by local authorities over the eight-week period if they are dissatisfied with progress, and that flexibility should be shown to meet local needs. I understand that that guidance has been sufficient to allay industry concerns and, on that basis, we will not seek to oppose the Government in rejecting Lords amendment No. 27.
Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey and Wood Green) (LD):
Over the past couple of years, the Liberal Democrats have called for a levy on big late-night venues to help pay for policing and the other costs of alcohol-related disorder. Therefore, we welcome the principle of alcohol disorder zones, because the scheme implements our polluter pays policy. We had some concerns about the issues in relation to the action zones and the tarring of the innocent along with the guilty. However, we welcome the extra safeguards that have
been put into the guidelines because we were worried about the way in which local authorities might administer the scheme.
In Committee, we argued that there needed to be more of a causal link between behaviour and who was caught so that it could be established whether a premises or club had contributed to the alcohol-related disorder in a zone. If responsible establishments were caught in an alcohol disorder zone and forced to pay the chargeif they were effectively penalised by the irresponsibility of other establishmentsit would be a disincentive for good licence holders to maintain good standards. That appears to be contrary to Drinking Responsibly, the Governments consultation paper that is targeted at irresponsible premises.
We, like Conservative Members of the House of Lords, were worried that the intervention trigger that a local authority would use might be inappropriate or premature. Again, the measure is designed to make people behave responsibly, so if we were to penalise those exhibiting good behaviour, we would send the message that there was no point in being an exemplary landlord. Equally, establishments included under the action plan might be fulfilling their part of the bargain, so consideration would be needed not of the numbers, but of who was doing what was required and who was reneging on the agreement for the establishments caught in a proposed alcohol disorder zone.
The problem could be widespread because the threshold for triggering an alcohol disorder zone is extremely low. It would be difficult to find an area that has not experienced alcohol-related disorder, because it is prevalent in this country. We thus thought that it was important that councils were inhibited from moving too quickly or enthusiastically. I would have liked measurable criteria on what constituted a successful action plan. Lords amendment No. 27 would have gone some way towards alleviating concern that a local authority could act pre-emptively. Given the new safeguards in the Governments guidance, however, which will make the industry accept the way forward, Liberal Democrats are happy with the Governments proposal. If we can establish the Governments proposals vis-Ã -vis the way in which ADZs and action plans will work through the guidelines, Liberal Democrats have no problem with that.
Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): The introduction of alcohol disorder zones is an extremely good ideaone of the Governments better ideas. In Cheshunt, which I represent, we have a particular problem around the Old Pond area, which, on Saturday nights, can be likened to a war zone. The situation is such that during World and European cup matches, we often have numerous cavalry stationed up at the town hall in case they are required to disperse troublemakers. Fortunately, that was not necessary this year because the publicans around the Old Pond held constructive talks with the police to work out how they could control their clients and customers. That was probably a direct result of the threat of the imposition of alcohol disorder zones.
Although this might go against some of the views held by those in another place, I do not have much sympathy with the drinks industry. It has done extremely well out of Government legislation over the past year or so. While it is doing well, it is important that it accepts that it has a responsibility to the wider community, which, by and large, does not use its establishments, yet deserves a decent nights sleep and the ability to use the streets free from the fear of being abused, mugged and having to watch people urinate against brick walls. So I welcome the Governments view. It is useful for my local council to have in its armoury the threat of designating an alcohol disorder zone. My message to Broxbourne council is that if in future it feels the need to apply such an order, it should not hesitate, as it will have my support.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker). His advice on this matter, as on so much else, is compelling. Although I support ADZs generally, I have one concern.
The Minister will realise that the problem is getting the various authorities to follow the advice that he gives in his guidance. That does not always happen. Does he accept that the main way of tackling alcohol-driven street antisocial behaviour has been through the under-age drinking measure that was introduced in the first year of Labours power, the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997? That is one of the most used non-traffic laws in the country. That excellent Act could be even more effective and reduce the need for ADZs if police always followed Ministers advice and involved parents, as the Act intended. That would enhance prevention and parental control, which we all agree is the best way forward.
However, police do not always follow the guidance and they do not always apply that law in the way that was intended by involving the parents, so how will the Minister ensure that in the case of the Bill, the police listen to his advice and follow his guidance?
Mr. McNulty: In Committee in this place the Government gave a commitment to consider whether positive requirements to address alcohol misuse behaviour could be attached to a drinking banning order. On Second Reading in the other place we confirmed that we would table new clauses to that effect. That is the purpose of amendments Nos. 1, 2, 5 to 7 and 9 to 14. They enable individuals who are subject to a drinking banning order to undertake a course to address their alcohol misuse behaviour.
Amendments Nos. 3, 8, 20, 21 and 25 make minor and technical changes to the provisions on drinking banning orders by removing the concept of relevant persons. That removes an unintended fetter onthe courts ability to make a DBO on conviction. The matter was helpfully drawn to our attention bythe Crown Prosecution Service, so I am sure that the amendments will be welcomed.
Amendment No. 30 gives effect to a recommendation in the report on the Bill by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. New section 147A(9) originally provided that the Secretary of State may make an order increasing the fine for the offence of persistently selling alcohol to children set out in new section 147A(1). The fine is currently set at a maximum of £10,000. By the effect of the Licensing Act 2003, the power could be exercised using negative resolution procedures, but in accordance with the Committees recommendation, the Bill was amended so that the fine could not be increased without the authority of both Houses of Parliament. However, the requirement to seek affirmative approval by each House is limited to increases which do not relate simply to inflation.
Amendments Nos. 31 and 72 simply correct an unforeseen consequence of section 21 of the Licensing Act 2003. They will ensure that where a premises licence issued under the 2003 Act requires persons to be at the premises to undertake security activities, those persons will not need to be licensed by the security industry authority, unless the Private Security Industry Act 2001 requires them to be so licensed.
Amendment No. 32 resolves an unintended problem, which was recently brought to our attention by a number of local authorities, associated with the licensing of public spaces under the Licensing Act 2003 and the use of designated public places orders under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. Where a local authority holds a premises licence, or occupies or has managed for it a premises that is subject to a premises licence, a DPPO will be excluded from applying to those premises only at times when alcohol is actually being sold or supplied and for another 30 minutes thereafter. At all other times, the premises will be the subject of a DPPO. In other words, if a local authority has introduced a DPPO, it will not apply while alcohol sales are taking place. As I have said, that is a minor technical change. I am sure that the House welcomes this group of Lords amendments, because it resolves concerns expressed by local authorities on introducing DPPOs.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): I thank the hon. Gentlemanno doubt he will shortly be the right hon. Gentlemanfor that whistle-stop Cooks tour of the amendments. If I understood him correctly, he referred to a limited extension of the affirmative resolution procedure. Will he advise the House whether there is a new upper limit for the fine, which was £10,000, and, if so, what is it?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the advance newshe knows more than me. He has made an entirely fair point. The recommendation from the
Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee was simply to move from the negative procedure to the positive procedure. Nothing else will change, so £10,000 is still the upper limit. The Committee was concerned that both Houses should have the chance to debate any increases above inflation, rather than introducing the increase by the negative procedure, which would lead to the laborious process of praying against the order.
Mr. McNulty: To be generous to the hon. Gentleman, he is being pedantic rather than difficulthe has not created a difficulty for me. I do not know the answer off the top of my head, but if I get inspiration at some stage in the course of our deliberations, I will let him know; otherwise, I will write to him in due course.
Nick Herbert: Our concern about alcohol disorder zones was that retailers would be penalised for disorder caused by nearby pubs and clubs and that a blanket measure could be unfair. In the main, those concerns have been allayed during the Bills passage through Parliament. The Government have reassured us that alcohol disorder zones will be a last resort and will not become a routine intervention and that they will review the operation of alcohol disorder orders two years after implementation. We have also been reassured by amendments Nos. 28 and 29, which make it clear that draft regulations must be laid before and duly approved by this House and the other place. The other Lords amendments in this group are largely consequential and technical, and we are happy to support them.
With regard to drink banning orders, we repeatedly made the point in Committee that merely banning an activity cannot be the whole answer. If people are not to reoffend in the same manner, rehabilitation and education are necessary for them to learn the error of their ways constructively. Our ongoing concern is that the drink banning order is an instrument to deal with a social problem, which we recognise, but still does not address the causes of that problem, and inevitably fails to produce a long-term benefit. I am therefore glad to note that the Government have listened to my arguments in this instance, and have included a provision to address the underlying reasons for the behaviour that would cause a drink banning order to be made. By including an approved course with a drink banning order, we begin to tackle the heart of the matter.
The apparent British malaise of getting blind-drunk on a Friday or Saturday night is symptomatic of more than young people going out to enjoy themselves. That needs to be addressed. We welcome the addition to the Bill, which provides it with a great deal more balance. The provision of treatment to people who are subject to such orders cannot but benefit them. As the
Minister said to the House previously, the Government have made a commitment to considering whether positive requirements to address alcohol misuse could be attached to a drink banning order. I therefore thank them for bringing forward the amendments.
Mr. Walker: I, too, thank the Government for bringing forward the amendments. I did not mean to be pedantic in asking the Minister when the threshold was raised to £10,000 for those caught selling alcohol to minors. In moving from the negative to the affirmative procedure, I hope that we have a debate in the House as soon as possible. In my constituency, off-licences and shops selling alcohol to under-age children is a huge problem, which destroys families. To act as a deterrent, the upper limit of £10,000 should be raised significantly.
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