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However, a year is a long time and the vast majority of ADZs will probably come to a natural conclusion within a shorter time. We do not expect them to have an extensive life. After all, ADZs will be reviewed at three-monthly intervals. We expect the review to be thorough and to look extensively at whether the problem has been addressed. We intend the guidance to be very clear on that point. Given the intensive enforcement effort involved at the compulsory charging stage, it is unlikely that ADZs will last more than a year.
Perhaps those may turn out to be famous last words, but one can never be precise about these issues. When the ADZ covers an area with intractable problems that may be more deeply rooted than even the development of an alcohol disorder zone can deal with, a lengthier period may be requiredbut that is unlikely. One would hope that the effort put in by the
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So the amendment is not necessary, nor would the extra effort be required for the local authority to renew an alcohol disorder zone. While I understand what the noble Lord is trying to achieve, we need to set the system in motion, view the imposition of ADZs as a last resort, hope that people are involved at an appropriate level and manner and ensure that we monitor the way that ADZs work and build on experience. Thus a sunset of a year would become unnecessary and I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I think that he has said enough in setting out the Governments policy and thinking behind this legislation to make it open to local licensees who feel that the local authority is abusing the powers given by the Bill to seek redress in the courts if necessary. I am sure that if they did that in the case of abuse, the Minister's statement today would be well employed. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(6A) Upon an unlawful sale of alcohol taking place, the designated premises supervisor and the premises licence holder of the premises where the unlawful sale was made must be immediately notified of the unlawful sale and provided with evidence of that sale.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is another fresh matter that has arisen since Committee.Clause 23 creates a new offence of persistently selling alcohol to children. The offence is committed if on three or more different occasions in three consecutive months alcohol is unlawfully sold on the same premises to a person under the age of 18.
As I made clear in Committee, we on these Benches strongly support the creation of the offence, and the amendment has been tabled to probe the most speedy and effective way of preventing alcohol being sold to children. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association is concerned that, if an unlawful sale takes place, it is imperative that the designated premises supervisor and premises licence holder are immediately informed and can take appropriate action.
I understand that retailers are worried that in exceptional circumstances three test purchases could take place within a short time. For example, one particular sales assistant may be on duty and acting outside instructions during those three narrowly spaced periods of sales. That could mean that the
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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I support the amendment and draw your Lordships attention to an article which appeared in the Metro newspaper on9 October headed, Drinkers caught out by a lock-in. A Mr Ronny Carter, who runs the G-Bar in Oxford, had his suspicions about 23 drinkers inside his public house, so he locked the doors, turned the light on and called the police. The drinkers all provided identification to show that they were over the age of 18 but, in fact, when the police asked everyone who was carrying a fake ID to sit down, only one out of 23 remained standing. That was a piece of self-help on the part of Mr Carter which is highly to be commended. The spirit behind the amendment rather reflects Mr Carter's attitude and we support it.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling the amendment because, ultimately, it goes to the heart of the responsibilities placed on licensees by the Licensing Act 2003. As I understand it, the amendment would require the designated premises supervisorthe DPS, as he or she is generally referred toand the premises licence holder to be notified immediately when any unlawful sale of alcohol took place on their premises. It would also require those persons to be provided with evidence of the offences.
The premises licence holder, which will often be a business, is responsible for ensuring that licence conditions are adhered to and that licensing law in general is complied with. We strongly believe that these absolute responsibilities cannot be avoided, even if the business headquarters is some distance away.
The amendment does not set out which person or body should give the required notification or provide the required evidence, but I assume that the intention is that this new requirement would fall on the enforcement officers. In other words, it proposes more work for the police or trading standards officers who detect the offences. Incidentally, it indirectly adds another layer of bureaucracy to the fixed penalty notice arrangements for the police.
We need to consider and understand the deeper significance of the amendment and, in doing so, it is important to look back at the development of the Licensing Act 2003. When the reform of the licensing laws was being considered, the alcohol retail industry successfully lobbied for a split licensing regime under which the premises licence would be held by the business and the personal licence would be held by employees. The intention was that managers could move around freely without the premises licence having to be transferred.
However, in giving businesses this greater flexibility, Parliament also placed on the businesses holding the new premises licences direct responsibility for ensuring that licence conditions were adhered to and that licensing offences did not take place. Large chains involved in retailing alcohol are therefore no longer able to abdicate responsibility to managers, who used to hold the old liquor licences. The new job of the premises licence holder is to prevent breaches of licensing law and licence conditions and not just to react to them. This goes to the heart of the amendment.
I know that the noble Baroness is concerned about fairness and reasonableness, as we all are. She asks what would happen if three offences were committed within 20 minutes and the DPS and premises licence holder did not know. How could they have time to rectify the situation? Let us be clear. If three criminal offences, each potentially punishable by a maximum fine of £5,000, are committed within 20 minutes, each one represents a fundamental failure by the DPS and the premises licence holder to fulfil their responsibilities under the Licensing Act 2003. Their role is to ensure sufficient supervision to prevent such crimes.
These individual crimes must not be trivialised. I am sure that the noble Baroness will recall that the Government and this House began the process of toughening the law on selling to children by supporting the Licensing (Young Persons) Act 2000. That Act began life as a Private Members Bill promoted by the Member of Parliament for Pudsey and arose because of the death of one of his14 year-old constituents, David Knowles. The House will recall that David Knowles ran to his death on a major road after drinking alcohol that had been repeatedly sold to him by a store throughout a single afternoon. That is the potential consequence of the criminal act of selling alcohol to young children.
When the Government have met the large chains, they have given assurances that they will work to improve their poor performance on the sale of alcohol to children. Yet the amendment implies that they would not even know, and should have no reason to know, that offences were being committed on their premises if the enforcing authorities did not bother to tell them. That would hardly inspire confidence that they were taking their new responsibilities seriously or that they were ensuring proper supervision of the premises.
The industry cannot have the increased flexibility provided by the Licensing Act but not the attached responsibility. Under the Licensing Act, new rights
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Before a test purchase occurred, how many unlawful sales could well have taken place outside the knowledge of the enforcement agencies? How many children would already have been harmed? Test purchases are generally targeted on the basis of local intelligence. The likelihood is that a large number of offences will have gone undetected and unpunished.
The threat of test purchasing is intended to create a severe deterrent to these crimes. The Government do not intend to restrict the work of the enforcing agencies by providing guidance that the DPS or premises licence holders should always be told about test purchase failures. I have no doubt that they may sometimes be told, and it is by no means unusual for failures to be discussed with the DPS. However, in our view, insisting on such a practice would send out all the wrong messages. It would imply that there was some kind of acceptable failure rate before further action was taken. There is no excusable failure rate in an area as important as this. The new offence punishes the failure of the premises licence holder to prevent persistent and repeated offences taking place on the premises for which the holder is responsible. If they need a warning, let the message from this House be that a single unlawful sale is unacceptable. There can be no excuses.
However, the House should also remember that if the offending business does not want to accept the prohibition on sales of alcohol for 48 hours, it may elect to go to trial. It would be free to argue the perceived unfairness of the situation. The court would be under no obligation to fine the business or suspend its premises licence at all.
If the new offence causes the industry to invest in better and more effective management supervision and better training for staff selling alcohol, the House should welcome and applaud that. The expenditure on alcohol each year in this country now exceeds£40 billion. The industry can afford to ensure that it complies with its responsibilities to children and their parents and to the wider community.
During the debates on the then Licensing Bill, the protection of children from harm was one of this Houses top concerns. To its credit, the House persuaded the Government to toughen up that Bill to protect young people better. I do not think that the House should now retreat on that. It is not for licensing officers, the police and trading standards officers to meet the responsibilities of supermarkets, pubs or convenience stores by being their eyes and ears.
Of course, as Government, we shall continue to work closely with the alcohol retail industry to reduce sales to young people. While we are making progress in this area, the Government must push for zero tolerance to ensure that children are given the highest
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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the Minister speaks as though all licensees are trying to sell alcohol to young persons and trying to evade their duties. That was the general tenor of his answer. The amendment was tabled as a probing amendment, to try to ensure that those traders who are responsible and co-operating with the Government are able to take remedial action as soon as possible. The Minister says that the three test purchases are now unlikely to take place unless there has been a considerable history of bad behaviour by the licensee. If that were so in each and every case, one would not have sympathy with the retailer who must be failing in his or her duty to train and monitor staff properly. The concern remains that there will be people who are doing all that they can to ensure that there is no bad sale. I repeat what the Minister saidthat a single failure rate is unacceptable. I agree, but of course there is the issue of acquiring the evidence to take a person to court. Some of the people who may be caught by this may be trying to take a responsible approach. I agree with the Minister when he says that underlying all this is the fact that there should not be sales to young people.
As a magistrate, I used to sit on a licensing Bench and I used to visit licensed premises, including a particular off-licence where there were reports of difficulties relating to underage people. As soon as that was notified properly to the licence holder, action was taken. The difficulty was that there was much rumour but no one had been prepared to put up and they certainly did not shut up until later on.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment will correct an unforeseen consequence of Section 21 of the Licensing Act 2003. At present, where a premises licence issued under the Act requires one or more persons to be at the premises at any time to undertake security activities, it must also, subject to several exceptions, require such persons to be licensed by the Security Industry Authority, even if the Private Security Industry Act 2001 does not require them to be licensed. Subject to certain exceptions, Section 21 of the 2003 Act catches all persons performing these activities, whether they are required to be licensed by the SIA or not.
The practical consequences of this have recently come to light. In plain English this means that when the wording of a premises licence requires security staff to be present at an event to carry out a security activity, there are cases where they have to be SIA-licensed, even if they are not required to be licensed by the 2001 Act. That includes volunteers and other groups that have been exempted, including those who are working legally under a licence dispensation notice. The amendment aims to correct that anomaly. I beg to move.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment resolves an unintended problem associated with the licensing of public spaces under the LicensingAct 2003, and the use of designated public places
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The Licensing Act 2003 brought the licensing arrangements for a range of activities under the same licensing regime. This means that premises licensed for the sale of alcohol, the provision of regulated entertainment and the provision of late night refreshment now hold the same type of authorisation. The 2003 Acts statutory guidance encourages local authorities to seek premises licences for public spaces, in order to allow local community events such as farmers markets, open-air festivals, concerts and carnivals to take place without the need for each individual event organiser to apply for a separate licence. The local authority would hold the licence and allow the various events to operate within its terms.
The unintended consequence of this is that, where local authorities apply for a premises licence in respect of public spaces in order to hold regulated entertainment, and in some cases allow the sale of alcohol at certain times, those places cannot then be designated as part of a DPPO. Concerns have been raised by a number of local authorities that wish to promote community events by licensing public spaces but also wish to make use of DPPOs in tackling the problems of anti-social drinking. The current position offers no flexibility and needs to be addressed.
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