15 Sep 2011 : Column 21P

15 Sep 2011 : Column 21P

Petition

Thursday 15 September 2011

Observations

Home Department

Glass Bottles (Pubs and Clubs)

The Petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares the Petitioners concern that glass bottles can cause serious harm to victims when used as a weapon.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to bring forward a law to stop the serving of glass bottles and glasses in pubs and clubs after 9 pm.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sheryll Murray , Official Report, 20 July 2011; Vol. 531, c. 11P.]

[P000952]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government condemn the horrific bottle attack suffered by Mr Jack Nutting and praises the campaign he has launched to prevent this happening to others.

The Government recognise the benefits that glassware bans and safer alternatives to traditional glassware can have in limiting the harm caused by alcohol-related violence. However, we do not consider that a ban on glass bottles and other glassware should apply to all pubs and clubs nationwide after 9 pm. Many licensed premises operate without any violent incidents.

The Government therefore believe that they should avoid dictating from the centre and instead empower the police, communities, and licensing authorities to take steps to prevent alcohol-related crime and disorder, including banning glassware, when it is appropriate in the particular circumstances. The Licensing Act 2003 (the Act) devolves responsibility for the administration of licensing to local authorities acting as “licensing authorities” (LAs). Any premises wishing to sell alcohol must submit an application to the local LA, which must discharge its functions under the Act with a view to promoting the licensing objectives. These are: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the protection of children from harm; and the prevention of public nuisance.

15 Sep 2011 : Column 22P

Under the Act as it currently stands, a “responsible authority” (such as the police), or residents and businesses “in the vicinity” of the premises, can make a representation about the application. The LA will ordinarily hold a hearing to consider the representation, which can result in conditions being imposed on the licence that are “necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives”. A number of conditions relating to glassware are quite common. They include bans on the use of bottles by customers; requirements for the use of safer alternatives to traditional glassware; and bans on customers leaving with glassware. These conditions can be absolute, or may apply at certain times or contain other exceptions (such as for wine bottles sold as part of a table meal). Therefore, if the police consider that the premises may, due to its location and style, present a risk of violent crime, they can make a representation to seek the imposition of conditions that are specific to the premises. Carrying out licensable activities otherwise than in accordance with an authorisation is a serious criminal offence, so these conditions have real impact.

After the licence has been granted, responsible authorities and interested parties can apply to the licensing authority at any time for a review of the licence. Therefore, a ban on bottles or glassware is likely to be imposed after an incident of crime and disorder, whilst more serious or repeat incidents may result in the premises being shut down either temporarily or permanently.

The Government are currently bringing forward measures in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill (the PRSR Bill) that will shift the balance of the Act in favour of communities and the police. In particular, the limitation that only those members of the public or businesses who are “in the vicinity of the premises” can make a representation or apply for a review will be scrapped. This will mean that any person or business, regardless of where they live or operate, will be able to take these steps. The PRSR Bill also contains measures to make the LA itself a responsible authority, so that it does not have to wait for others to act before it takes steps to promote the licensing objectives.

Furthermore, we are lowering the test that applies to LAs’ decisions from “necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives” to “appropriate for the promotion of the licensing objectives”. This is an important change that will enable LAs to impose conditions more easily and without being constrained by the idea that they need to be sure that the condition is “necessary”.

These measures will put communities and the police in a much better position to take steps to prevent violent crime and reduce the harm it causes.