Session 2010-11
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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Licensing Act 2003 (Royal Wedding Licensing Hours) Order 2011

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Joe Benton 

Aldous, Peter (Waveney) (Con) 

Bacon, Mr Richard (South Norfolk) (Con) 

Bebb, Guto (Aberconwy) (Con) 

Blunkett, Mr David (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab) 

Brake, Tom (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD) 

Brokenshire, James (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)  

Chapman, Mrs Jenny (Darlington) (Lab) 

Colvile, Oliver (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con) 

Foster, Mr Don (Bath) (LD) 

Fullbrook, Lorraine (South Ribble) (Con) 

Hunt, Tristram (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab) 

Johnson, Diana (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab) 

Mitchell, Austin (Great Grimsby) (Lab) 

Simpson, David (Upper Bann) (DUP) 

Stewart, Bob (Beckenham) (Con) 

Stuart, Ms Gisela (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab) 

Tami, Mark (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab) 

Wright, Jeremy (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)  

Rhiannon Hollis, Judith Boyce, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):

Buckland, Mr Robert (South Swindon) (Con) 

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Fifth Delegated Legislation Committee 

Tuesday 8 March 2011  

[Mr Joe Benton in the Chair] 

Draft Licensing Act 2003 (Royal Wedding Licensing Hours) Order 2011

10.30 am 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire):  I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the Draft Licensing Act 2003 (Royal Wedding Licensing Hours) Order 2011. 

Good morning, Mr Benton. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. Good morning also to the rest of the Committee. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I am very grateful for Members’ support for this important order. The licensing hours order was laid in Parliament on 9 February. If the legislation is made, it will allow licensed premises to stay open after 11 pm on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 April to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. 

Under section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Secretary of State may make an order relaxing opening hours for licensed premises to mark occasions of 

“exceptional international, national, or local significance”. 

A licensing hours order overrides existing opening hours in licensed premises and can be used for a period of up to four days. An order may be applied to all licensed premises in England and Wales or restricted to one or more specified areas. It is also possible to impose different opening hours on different days during the relaxation period and to allow different licensing hours for different licensable activities. 

The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton is a day of national celebration and, as such, justifies a small relaxation of licensing hours in England and Wales. Different legislation applies in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We do not hold detailed statistics on closing times in pubs and other licensed premises, apart from 24-hour licences, but the figures that we do have suggest that about 67% are closed by midnight on a Saturday. It is likely that many of those premises will wish to open later during the royal wedding weekend to take advantage of the celebrations and the long weekend. They currently have the option of using a temporary event notice to extend their opening hours for a limited period at a cost of £21. However, TENs are subject to certain annual limits and may be refused by the licensing authority if the police object on the grounds of crime and disorder. 

A small relaxation of licensing hours will therefore benefit premises that would otherwise use a TEN to open late and allow people to celebrate the royal wedding in pubs, clubs and other licensed venues. In January this year, I consulted on a proposal to relax licensing hours until 1 am on Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises and for regulated entertainment, which includes live and recorded music. I excluded the off trade from the

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proposals on the basis that anyone wishing to celebrate at home could buy alcohol in advance or during usual opening hours. It was estimated that that small adjustment in licensing hours would save businesses in England and Wales between £240,000 and £280,000. 

There were 712 responses to the consultation from various interest groups and trade associations. A summary can be found on the Home Office website. Although there was some support for an order, many of those who responded were concerned about the possibility of increased crime and disorder, and additional policing costs. Some respondents suggested that the order should also include late-night refreshment—the sale of hot food and drink after 11 pm—so that restaurants, pubs and other venues could continue to serve food until 1 am. 

I take very seriously the concerns expressed by respondents to the consultation, but they are not necessarily representative of the vast majority of people in this country who wish to celebrate the royal wedding and who would welcome the proposals. There are several important factors to consider when enabling better control of the night-time economy by virtue of the order. The measure will have no permanent effect on licensing hours and will result in venues opening one or two hours later at most on the specified days. 

We expect that any additional policing costs will be very limited, because the majority of licensed premises that will take advantage of the order would open late anyway, using a temporary event notice. We expect any small extra cost to be met from existing police budgets. The suggestion that the order should include late-night refreshment had merits, particularly as it is widely recognised that the consumption of hot food and drink can mitigate the effects of alcohol. However, I do not think that the order should apply to takeaway establishments, which in most cases already have authorisation to stay open late under a separate regime. 

The draft order laid in Parliament on 9 February will allow licensed premises to stay open from 11 pm on Friday 29 April—the day of the wedding—until 1 am on Saturday 30 April; and from 11 pm on Saturday 30 April until 1am on Sunday 1 May; to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises; to put on regulated entertainment; and to sell hot food and drink in venues where alcohol is also sold for consumption on the premises. I hope hon. Members will agree that this small relaxation of licensing hours to mark the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton is an appropriate use of the powers conferred on the Home Secretary by section 172 of the Licensing Act, and is a positive gesture at this time of national celebration. 

10.35 am 

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab):  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Benton, and to see so much interest in this important order from Members from all parts of the House. I am grateful to the Minister for setting out very clearly what this order is about. I do not wish to detain the Committee for long, but I have a few questions that I would like him to answer. 

First, I note that the consultation was held between 12 and 26 January. Will the Minister confirm whether that is the usual period for a consultation? It seems

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quite short to me. I also note the Minister’s comment that the overwhelming number of respondents to that consultation were not supportive of the proposal. Has he undertaken any further consultation or had discussions with other groups that might have given a more balanced view? He said that he thought the respondents did not have the same approach to celebrating the royal wedding as most people in the country. 

Secondly, although this is an event of national importance and celebration, the order applies only to 29 and 30 April. The Minister referred to the power laid down in the Licensing Act that would allow an extension of licensing provisions for up to four days. As it is a bank holiday weekend, has he given any consideration to extending the two-hour licensing extension over a three-day period? Has he thought about the provision in the Licensing Act that allows certain areas to apply different hours on different days during the period covered, and whether that would fit in with the Government’s approach to localism, allowing different parts of the country to adopt a different approach? I know he is very keen to promote that local agenda, so I wondered whether any consideration had been given to it. 

As this is the first time that the provision has been used, will there be an opportunity to review it? The diamond jubilee will be another national celebration, and it may be useful to look at the lessons that are learned from this order. Will the Minister explain why he thinks there is a saving of between £240,000 and £480,000? Is that because charities and voluntary groups will not have to pay the application fee for the TEN licence? 

Finally, in the explanatory memorandum, it is estimated that there will be costs of £45,000 to £170,000 for the additional policing of the order. Was any thought given to the additional cost for local authorities—for example the cleaning required afterwards—and providing them with additional resources to cope with that? We do not intend to oppose the order, but ask the Minister to address those points. 

10.39 am 

Mr Don Foster (Bath) (LD):  I am absolutely delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Benton, on this very important discussion on what the Minister and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North both described as a “national celebration”. They are both wrong—it is not only a national celebration, but an international one. [ Interruption. ] Well, it is very important because the royal wedding will bring a large number of people from overseas to visit this country, which will give them the opportunity to enjoy, among many other things, the benefit of a night out in our brilliant local pubs. 

I am delighted to support the order because it will do something to protect our pubs, which are in immense difficulties for a whole variety of reasons. It is worth reflecting that last year, according to the British Beer and Pub Association, some 39 pubs a week closed. The latest figures from the Campaign for Real Ale suggest that 29 pubs are closing every week. I confess that when the Labour Government introduced the changes to the licensing legislation, I was highly critical of them. I argued in particular that the proposals for so-called 24-hour drinking would lead to a great deal of mayhem

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on our streets. I have subsequently admitted that I was wrong and that the problem of antisocial behaviour that causes difficulty for the police, health service and local communities is not caused by the relatively small number of pubs that stay open for 24 hours or for extended hours, but by the pocket money-priced alcohol that is available in our supermarkets. I do not believe—I have said this on the Floor of the House—that our Government’s proposals for minimum pricing go far enough to address that. I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will return to it and take further action at some point. 

The order will provide a welcome boost to our pubs, among many other parts of our tourism industry, so I welcome the proposals. They will not only extend the hours, which will be welcomed, but do so at no additional cost to pubs. The Minister has already said that the saving is somewhere in the region of £240,000 to £280,000. However, if a licensed premises wished to extend its hours still further, would it still be eligible to apply for a temporary event notice for that period? 

While it is quite clear from the responses to the debate that the Committee will support the order, which I welcome, I am slightly concerned that we are going to go against the majority view in the consultation. I was a little surprised that paragraph 4 of the Department’s analysis of the consultation stated: 

“Data was not collected on respondent organisations.” 

Although we are told in the document that there have been responses from organisations involved in enforcement, licensing and health, and from other groups including legal specialists, and people involved in the entertainment industry, village halls and charities, we have no indication of which response came from which type of organisation, so we do not have an opportunity, certainly in the data with which we have been provided, to get a sense of the weight of feeling from those involved, for example, in law enforcement. I confess that when I looked at the consultation document, I was a little surprised at how easy it was to return it without even providing information about the organisation being represented. I therefore suggest that in future, when we have such documents before us, particularly when we are going to go against the weight of the consultation, the analysis should enable us to decide the basis for so doing, 

I end with an intriguing question that has been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington. What thoughts has the Minister given to the implication of the draft order if Catherine Middleton and Prince William get cold feet and pull out? Perhaps he could tell us what would happen. 

10.44 am 

Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab):  I cannot equal the enthusiasm of the right hon. Member for Bath, who, if he keeps it up, will get the order of the Bath in due course. 

Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con):  Order of the brown nose. 

Mr Blunkett:  Quite right. I like to get things on the record when people say something from a sedentary position. After 24 years in Parliament, it is with great pleasure that I serve on this Committee, because I am

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able to make a small contribution to the well-being of the British people in celebrating this couple’s happy day. I only wish that 18 months ago, when I married my wife Margaret, the then Government had introduced a similar order, so that Sheffield could have had the appropriate knees-up. 

We need to advise people to be very careful on these two days. Thirty years ago, when celebrations were taking place on the day of Prince Charles and Lady Di’s wedding, I went for a walk and had only a couple of pints, but I had to take to my bed for two days with the worst migraine I have ever had—that was obviously a predictor of the tragedies to come in the marriage. This year, I am sticking to decent burgundy, which I think will help with the international celebration mentioned by the right hon. Member for Bath, because it will help the economy of Europe, as well as the economy of Sheffield. 

On the day, we only need to say two things: first, I hope that people will behave reasonably within licensed premises, because quite seriously, it is people who live near pubs and restaurants who are disadvantaged when licensing hours are extended. Secondly, I hope that we take up the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North and think in future of how we might help local authorities, because environmental health services as well as cleansing services will be involved in clearing up. On the whole, however, even for republicans, offering people an extra pint is a very good inducement to all of us having a damn good 48 hours. 

10.46 am 

James Brokenshire:  The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough spoke about behaving reasonably, responsibly and considerately, which is important in the context of the national celebrations that we hope will mark this very special event. I cannot comment on whether the right hon. Gentleman’s marriage could be considered a national or even international event—the distinction has been drawn—but I am sure that the whole Committee will wish him a long and happy marriage. 

I want to respond to some other points raised during the course of this short debate. I welcome the support for the order from all parts of the Committee. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North spoke about the timing of the consultation. I accept that it was a short period, but the consultation was designed to ensure that the order could be brought into force in time for the royal wedding, so that the celebrations could take place. Equally, regarding the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath, there are lessons that we can learn and reflect on about the way in which consultations are conducted. In the context of future celebrations and national events, we can look at the ways in which we are best able to engage and identify people who need support, and I note the comments from both my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North. 

Equally, we will learn from experience. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North referred to the forthcoming diamond jubilee, and we will consider further issues relating to national or, indeed, international

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celebrations at that time, as well as any other application that the order may have. On savings and monetary aspects, it is worth mentioning that if the order were not brought into effect, licensed premises would need to seek a temporary event notice. There would be costs for licensed premises, as well as costs to local authorities, who would have to process a number of applications in a restricted period. It may also have an impact on their other licensing objectives, and a cost would be applied in that regard. In many ways, the measure is a way of recognising people’s desire to celebrate. It ensures that that is achieved in a deregulatory fashion and in a way that achieves those savings. 

Another point to make about temporary event notices, as opposed to an extension of the normal licence, is that the licensing conditions that attach to a normal licence will equally apply to the extension. Some conditions that may already be in place in relation to a licence will apply equally to the additional two hours, which may well be beneficial in managing the night-time economy. However, we hope and believe that the celebration, when people mark this important day, will be a positive affair with a positive effect. 

I agree with the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath. It is a national and international celebration, and it should be a special occasion that we are able to engage in. It will be an opportunity to support local pubs and industry, and, whether the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough will be having his glass of burgundy in a pub or elsewhere, I certainly hope that people will be able to celebrate this special occasion. It will be an important part of the events on the day, and I hope that the Committee will agree to a small relaxation in licensing hours for the royal wedding celebrations. 

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD):  I thank the Minister for accepting an intervention, as he was coming to the end of his remarks. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bath made a point to which he has not responded on the price of alcohol. I hope that there will be an assessment of the impact of the measure, because if the press are correct in saying that a unit of alcohol— 

The Chair:  Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the price of alcohol is not directly germane to the debate. That will have to be taken up somewhere else. 

James Brokenshire:  Thank you, Mr Benton. I note the comments from my hon. Friend, and I am sure that there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss broader issues relating to alcohol in future. We did so in debates on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, as you well know, Mr Benton, having chaired a number of sittings of that Committee. 

I must confess that I did not specifically address the comments about temporary event notices. I can confirm to the right hon. Member for Bath that TENs will still be available beyond the 1 am threshold, but they will considered on a case-by-case basis by local authorities. In the light of those comments, I hope that the Committee will be minded to approve the draft order. 

Question put and agreed to.  

10.53 am 

Committee rose.