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Session 2008 - 09
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General Committee Debates
Policing and Crime Bill

Policing and Crime Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Hugh Bayley, Sir Nicholas Winterton
Austin, Mr. Ian (Dudley, North)
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta (City of Durham) (Lab)
Brokenshire, James (Hornchurch) (Con)
Burns, Mr. Simon (West Chelmsford) (Con)
Campbell, Mr. Alan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Cawsey, Mr. Ian (Brigg and Goole) (Lab)
Coaker, Mr. Vernon (Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing)
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con)
Fitzpatrick, Jim (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD)
Holmes, Paul (Chesterfield) (LD)
Keeble, Ms Sally (Northampton, North) (Lab)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie (Bromsgrove) (Con)
Ruffley, Mr. David (Bury St. Edmunds) (Con)
Waltho, Lynda (Stourbridge) (Lab)
Wilson, Phil (Sedgefield) (Lab)
Chris Shaw, Andrew Kennon, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee


Don Shenker, Chief Executive, Alcohol Concern
Rob Hayward, Chief Executive, British Beer and Pub Association
Mike Craik, Chief Constable, Northumbria Police, Association of Chief Police Officers
Shane Brennan, Public Affairs Director, Association of Convenience Stores
Councillor Chris White, Chair of Culture, Tourism and Sports Board, Local Government Association
Mick Creedon, Chief Constable, Derbyshire Police, Association of Chief Police Officers
Paul Evans, Director of Intervention, Serious Organised Crime Agency
Commander Allan Gibson, Detective Superintendant Tristram Hicks and Detective Chief Inspector Murray Duffin, Metropolitan Police

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 27 January 2009


[Hugh Bayley in the Chair]

Policing and Crime Bill

Written evidence to be reported to the House
PC 01 Liberty
PC 03 Wine and Spirit Trade Association
PC 04 Stephen Paterson
PC 05 Association of Convenience Stores
PC 06 British Retail Consortium
PC 07 Outsiders Trust
4 pm
The Chairman: I—[Interruption.] I am prompted by that ringing tone to ask everyone in the room to turn off all mobile phones and electronic devices.
If the witnesses are settled in their places, I would like formally to commence the afternoon sitting. I remind hon. Members and witnesses that we are bound by the internal knives agreed this morning. The first evidence session this afternoon must end by 5.30 pm and the second by 7 pm. I hope that I will not have to interrupt hon. Members or witnesses in the middle of their sentences, but I will do so if I must. Parliamentary procedure is extremely precise on the knives. The moment it is 5.30 pm, I must halt proceedings and move on to the second set of witnesses.
Members will find on their desks copies of a substantial amount of material submitted by the Home Office to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in support of the Bill. It will not be circulated again, so I ask hon. Members who wish to keep it for the duration of Committee proceedings to take it with them at the end of the sitting.
I welcome this afternoon’s first set of witnesses. For the record, may I ask you to introduce yourselves to the Committee and state your name and the organisation that you represent?
Chris White: I am Councillor Chris White and I represent the Local Government Association. I chair the culture, tourism and sport board of that organisation.
Mike Craik: I am Mike Craik, chief constable of Northumbria police, and I am here on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Shane Brennan: I am Shane Brennan from the Association of Convenience Stores.
Rob Hayward: I am Rob Hayward from the British Beer and Pub Association.
Don Shenker: I am Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern.
The Chairman: Thank you all for submitting evidence and for coming to be questioned this afternoon. We will start with a question from James Brokenshire.
Q 44James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): The Bill deals with certain offences and the creation of mandatory requirements. The Secretary of State may set out national mandatory requirements, and local authorities will be permitted to impose additional requirements on licensees within specific areas. Will witnesses state what information they have been provided with to date on the conditions that will be expected? One difficulty for the Committee is understanding what conditions are likely to be required. It would be useful to hear from industry representatives and the police the types of conditions they expect to see imposed through the mandatory code requirements, given that the code is yet to be drawn up and finalised.
Mike Craik: Certainly. On behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers, I largely welcome the proposals in the Bill. As for examples of mandatory requirements, the things that spring to mind that need discussing are a range of possibilities around pricing—special officers, two for the price of one, 24 hour drinking, vertical drinking spaces, and trying to create an arena where more people sit down and drink, rather than cramming a lot of people into one place. There is also a real opportunity to do something about advertising and the sale and presentation of drink. I can best exemplify that by describing the sort of things I saw in my local supermarket over Christmas. There were mountains of phenomenally reduced very strong lager—50p a can—and drink could be purchased from different parts of the premises, rather than through the normal cash till. There are a range of options that it might prove useful to discuss and form some agreement on.
Shane Brennan: We do not know—we are in the dark, as Members are—exactly what will come forward. We know in broad headline terms that the Government are considering things like price and promotions, as my colleague has just said. They are also considering issues such as the training of staff and other things, particularly in the category B area. The biggest concern that we have at this point is that we do not know the scale of what we are talking about or the parameters of what we are looking at. That limits the ability of what we can say at this stage in terms of specifics.
Rob Hayward: I expect to be told broadly what might be in categories A and B on Thursday. Parts of the on-trade have been invited to meet Home Office officials, so we might have some idea on Thursday—we are expecting so. However, before we get there—or possibly after, if we are not told—we face the same problem as other people on the panel. You can speculate, and if you do so, you face enormous costs, which is the biggest problem that we are concerned about under these circumstances. As a Parliament, how can you be asked to approve an enabling clause, when we really have no idea what is included, let alone what the costs or the benefits are?
Q 45James Brokenshire: The Department of Health published a code at one stage that set out certain requirements that got into the public domain. Is your understanding that that is the model, or will the Government be moving away from that?
Rob Hayward: My understanding is that large parts are no longer likely to be included, but we have no certainty about that. The document to which you are referring seemed to be like a basket of everything that anybody could think of—it was truly a basket case. One has to remember throughout that the mandatory elements of the proposal relate not only to the places that Shane and I represent, but affect all licensed premises, whether a hotel, restaurant or tourism venue. Many castles and the like have licences, as well as Wimbledon and Ascot. All those venues would be affected by any code.
Q 46James Brokenshire: Mr. Shenker, perhaps you could indicate your thoughts on the conditions issue and the effectiveness and appropriateness of the mandatory conditions route.
Don Shenker: To start with, I would like to say that we are broadly in favour of the Bill and are very much in favour of the introduction of a mandatory code—or enabling powers for a mandatory code. As all the speakers have said, the point of having the enabling power is that there can be some consultation on what would be the most useful elements to have under national conditions—category A—and which would be local. They have to be proportionate to countering the level of harm that we have seen in both the on-trade and with some of the loss leading and deep discounting through the off-trade. Clearly, the evidence shows that to try to tackle price, it would be far more effective to do so on a national level. Even sectors of the industry would say that if you are going to do anything about price, it is easier to manage it on a national level rather than locality by locality. I will defer to my colleagues perhaps to argue something different.
Certainly, some of the more ridiculous price offers have to be tackled—for example, where women can come in free between 10pm and 2am, or can have free vodka all night. Some of those promotions, which we have seen in different localities, have to be tackled. The question is whether to tackle them on a national level, by having a ban on happy hours throughout, or whether to leave them to local decision making. After consultation, we will get greater understanding of those issues. At Alcohol Concern, we do not have a definite view yet as to what the absolute national or local conditions should be. We are very keen that price is tackled, both in the on and off-trade. We are keen, too, that price promotions of the type that I have mentioned are dealt with. However, it is clear that many premises act responsibly, and they should not be burdened too much with a national condition. We have to find the right balance, in short.
Q 47James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): The category B conditions are local measures that could be applied in areas where there is concern about anti-social behaviour or nuisance—the kind of issues that are one of the licensing principles, if I may put it like that. The issue here is that if a particular venue is said to be causing disruption, you can effectively seek a licensing review under the existing powers of Licensing Act 2003. In other words, the local authority can review the licence and additional conditions can be imposed. The category B requirements seem to have the potential to fetter local authorities, saying they are only able to impose the conditions prescribed by the Home Secretary. What is the Local Government Association’s view of the interrelationship between the existing Licensing Act review provisions and the proposals of this second limb of the mandatory code, with these additional conditions that local authorities could apply?
Chris White: A lot of this relates to the difference between dealing with a single premises and dealing with a collection of premises. The difficulties with dealing with single premises is that local authorities do not have the power to initiate a review—it has to be done by the police. I think I understand the reasons, but it is a problem for us and local residents find it difficult to understand. We would first urge that councils themselves, using information not least from local councillors, should be able to initiate a review of a particular premises. That would make a huge difference with problem premises.
Where you are dealing with collections of premises, there is not a great difference between having nationally imposed conditions and locally permitted conditions. However, nationally imposed conditions will naturally be ham-fisted and will not necessarily take local circumstances into account. Local conditions imposed by councils could have certain advantages, if an area had more than two premises with similar difficulties. Often, that will not be the case. There will be a pub with vertical drinking, and next door will be the nice restaurant where that sort of thing does not take place. Then, there will be the other pub where older people go because they do not want to go to the younger pub. In those circumstances, local conditions are not going to be very useful. Nevertheless, we welcome additional flexibility—the more powers we have to exercise locally, the better. We remain nervous about any national approach to licensing conditions, whether that is a national imposition or a national position.
Q 48James Brokenshire: Do you have any concerns about the local condition procedure? We want some certainty and, if local authorities are to have discretion, it must be clear how they will exercise that. From my perspective, the provisions have some echoes of the procedures adopted with the alcohol disorder zones and that whole regime. Do you see some parallels and equally some of the issues raised in relation to the effectiveness and appropriateness of ADZs?
Chris White: There are parallels with alcohol disorder zones, and there has been lobbying from many quarters, not least ourselves. Councils should have stronger powers in that regard. However, I do not feel that this is as useful a way forward compared with simply having a regime under which there is clarity through a licensing policy that is there for all to see, which is debated, discussed and refreshed every so often, and which the trade can see in a particular area. Dealing with individual premises as problems arise might help a bit, but, other than in extreme cases, it probably will not do so.
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Prepared 28 January 2009