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The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred to her fears, which we share, that the ADZ scheme would be seen as a way of raising extra revenue. When the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, replied to a similar amendment on26 April he said:
The charge needs to be set at a meaningful level which is sufficient to recoup local agencies costs in mounting effective enforcement interventions based on what is required to properly reduce crime and disorder in any given locality.
In other words, local businesses would pay for the security firms and for extra policemen possiblyalthough that is unlikelyto patrol the particular area. That was a matter which concerned us. I tabled an amendment in Committee, suggesting that there should be a cap on the compulsory charge which would be the equivalent of 3 per cent of the premises annual rateable value. That was a fairly arbitrary figure but it provided a mechanism which could differentiate between different sizes of businesses. However, things have moved on and the Minister has given us foresight of the regulations, but not the regulations themselves, of course. I understand that there will be a national charging scheme with differential chargesthere will not be a flat rateand there will, of course, be discounts, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred a moment ago.
In Amendment No. 18, all I am now seeking is that the regulations that we are promised should not
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The important thing is that we get the principles right, that it does not act as a disincentive, and that it acts as an encouragement to get collective action at work.[Official Report, 26/4/06; col. 207.]
I recognise that that is a great deal vaguer than the3 per cent which I proposed in Committee. I believe that the local authority must have in mind at all times that this is not a revenue-raising situation which can continue indefinitely, but that it is designed to deal with a specific problem, over a specific periodanother matter to which we shall turn shortlyand that there should be a time limit on the imposition of these zones. I am not asking for a great deal and I hope to achieve some success on this occasion. I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said, the amendment would require the Secretary of State, when laying regulations on charging, to qualify the level of the charge paid locally. In particular, the regulations would require a local authority to ensure that the level of charges that it imposes acts as an encouragement to local action and not as a hindrance to the viability of local businesses. I am sure that the amendment has been moved for good reason.
I understand where the noble Lord is coming from and that we are going back to putting a cap on the compulsory charge within an ADZ. I recognise that the amendment bears some relation to our earlier debates. Yes, the charge needs to reflect the last-resort nature of ADZs and help incentivise local action. We are not about setting charges at a level that forces people to stop tradingthat would be completely outwith our expectations of the legislation and it is not what we are trying to do. At the same time, however, we hold that the charge needs to be set at a meaningful level that is sufficient to recoup local agencies costs in mounting effective enforcement interventions based on what is required to reduce crime and disorder locallyso the charge must be realistic.
We have ensured that the charge will be applied fairly. There will be a charging formula which takes account of a premises size, hours of opening and management practice. The clear aim is to have charges that are proportionate, reflecting the level of risk proposed by licensed premises and the level of enforcement activity required. And, as I explained earlier, we have provided for discounts. Outlets that close before ADZ enforcement activity commences will receive a 100 per cent discount. Local authorities will be able to grant discounts of up to 100 per cent to recognise compliance with the action planagain in our view, making the charge fair and proportionate. But can we impose a one-size-fits-all upper level of
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However, I am prepared to undertake that we put something along these lines in guidance. We will reinforce the key point, which is that the charge should incentivise local voluntary action, and should do nothing which undermines local businesses, drives them towards bankruptcy, or acts as a backdoor means for the local authority to raise additional revenue. We are prepared to undertake to include in guidance something that deals with the noble Lords point so that the issues he has raised are properly understood by local authorities when they come to consider their charges. I hope that with that undertaking, he will withdraw his amendment.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am encouraged by the Ministers words. I hope that local authorities can be made accountable for these charges and that they will be able to demonstrate a relationship between the level of the charge and the costs that are incurred by additional safeguards within alcohol disorder zones. I hope that that is included in guidance. I wish that we could see these regulations and I certainly wish that we could see the 2,000 pages of guidance that will result from this Bill. A huge amount will be attached to almost every clause. I am content and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 22 to 25 deal with Clause 16, dealing with the designation of alcohol disorder zones. I am anxious that the local authority should not make such orders without an appreciation of a persistent and repeated problem. As the Bill stands, the local authority could designate an alcohol disorder zone if there has been a single instance of nuisance or annoyance. That is why I seek to include the words persistent and repeated.
Amendment No. 24 raises an important principle because an alcohol disorder zone can be imposed even though the nuisance, annoyance or disorder does not occur within the zone itself. The clause permits the imposition of an alcohol disorder zone if the nuisance or annoyance takes place near that locality. I find it difficult to understand why one would impose such a zone simply because of a disorder down the road. In Committee, the Minister said that there might be a problem at the taxi rank or the bus station, but that does not give any strength to the argument that an area containing licensed premises should have statutory charges imposed upon it to pay for policing not of that zone, but of the bus station, the taxi rank or somewhere adjacent to the zone, but not
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Amendment No. 25 ensures that the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 have been fully used. It does so in order to prevent a local authority declaring an alcohol disorder zone, getting a charge and raising the money for the local police force and so on without using the existing provisions in the Licensing Act 2003.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, Clause 16(1) sets out the criteria for the designation of an alcohol disorder zone: first, a general test based around nuisance, annoyance and disorder in or near the locality; secondly, a link to the consumption of alcohol; and thirdly, a likelihood of repetition.
The noble Lords amendments focus around the first criterion and seek to add a further restrictive limb. They add a qualification that the public nuisance would have to be persistent and repeated, remove the terms disorder and or near from the first limb of the test and add a further limb placing an explicit requirement that full use of the Licensing Act 2003 had been made.
In response to the noble Lords point about persistent and repeated, I have made clear that alcohol disorder zones are an intervention of last resort, and we want to signal that. On the other hand, we want to ensure that the power can be used with a degree of flexibility. The Bill provides the overall framework. Clause 19 provides for guidance to be issued on the administration of ADZs, Clause 19(2) places a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that the guidance sets out what alternative steps should be considered prior to proposing an ADZ and Clause 19(4) places a duty on local authorities to have regard to the guidance. The guidance will set out clearly the alternative interventions to deal with alcohol-related crime and disorder, including tackling incidents that are not persistent.
So we do not need the reference to persistent and repeated that the amendment would provide. I can also give an assurance that the guidance will emphasise that and specifically refer to full use of the Licensing Act 2003 before designating an alcohol disorder zone. That takes account of the concern at the heart of one of the noble Lords amendments.
On the removal of the term disorder, it would not be wise to lose the link between disorder and anti-social behaviour and alcohol. We need to tackle those behaviours, which have a significant impact on our communities. We want that in the Bill.
Finally, turning to the removal of the term or near from the criteria, I certainly understand what the noble Lord says. As I recall, we had an interesting
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It is important to draw a distinction between local authorities making the case for an ADZ, how the ADZ will be drawn and what services the compulsory charge will cover. On making the case, it is important that some account is taken of the impact of alcohol-related crime and disorder in the area near the concentration of licensed premises. To give an example, residents in a nearby street may be disturbed by rowdy drunks leaving the premises, or there may be pinch points at a nearby taxi rank. All of that is alcohol-related and associated with patronage of the premises.
Of course, the voluntary action plan may include preventive steps to tackle those problemsperhaps contributions towards a taxi marshal. On designation of the ADZ, the zone will be tightly drawn around the premises concerned and the compulsory charge will cover enforcement activity directly affecting the premises. The charge will not cover supervision of a taxi rank or the patrolling of streets outside what we envisage as being a tightly drawn area.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: I have to say that I am not satisfied with that assurance. It is very important that the alcohol disorder zone should be a solution of last resort, as the Minister has said on many occasions. It is also strange that, although an order can be made because of disturbance near the locality of the zone, if the Minister is correct, the charge cannot be used for the payment of means of suppressing the disorder elsewhere. That is totally illogical. So it would not be used to police the taxi rank or the quiet neighbourhood street where the problem is impacting on local people.
I could understand if the noble Lord were putting that forward as an explanation for the word near the locality, but that is not the case. The people who live in the next street, the quiet residential area, who have drunks rolling down there from the alcohol disorder zone, will have no better policing or security than they have nowat least, it will not be paid for by the licensed premises, which has to pay on the rationale that it is causing the problem in that locality.
I have to say that the clause as drafted and the designation of the zones is far too loose. If it is to be a matter of last resort, it should be drafted much more tightly, in the way that we have suggested. I propose to test the opinion of the House.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, with permission, I shall repeat a Statement on political progress in Northern Ireland made earlier today in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Statement is as follows:Between 11 and 13 October in St Andrews, both the British and Irish Governments engaged intensively late into the night and from early morning with the Northern Ireland political parties. That we were able to defy the sceptics and cynics and secure the St Andrews agreement opens the way to a new dawn for democracy in Northern Irelanda new democracy based, for the very first time in Northern Irelands tangled history, on the twin foundations of the rule of law and power sharing. Without question, it may come to be seen as a pivotal moment in Irish history.These two foundations stand together or fall together: on the one hand, unequivocal support for the police and unequivocal support for the rule of law; on the other, an absolute commitment by all the parties to share power in a restored Northern Ireland Executive. Delivery on both these foundations was absent from the Good Friday agreement; now it is in prospect. That is a measure of what was achieved at St Andrewsarguably the
I can say to those noble Lords who are following the text of this Statement that the Secretary of State then went on to congratulate the right honourable Member for North Antrim and the noble Baroness, Lady Paisley of St Georges, on their 50th wedding anniversary last Friday. The Statement continues:Over the summer, the Committee on the Preparation for Government, with all the parties face to face in the room, did important and constructive work on a range of issues central to the good governance of Northern Ireland. Above all, there has been further compelling evidence that IRA violence has indeed ended, a judgment confirmed decisively on 4 October in the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission, which also confirmed in paragraph 2.17:
The leadership has maintained a firm stance against the involvement of members in criminality, although this does not mean that criminal activity by all members has stopped. The leaderships stance has included public statements and internal directions; investigating incidents of breach of the policy; the expulsion of some members; and emphasising the importance of ensuring that business affairs are conducted in a legitimate manner.
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