Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, when this amendment was debated in Committee, the noble Lords, Lord Meston and Lord Monson, queried why the Bill did not give local authorities the same powers as it gives to the courts; namely, to order that a licence should remain in force after revocation pending appeal.

At the time I undertook to write to the noble Lord setting out the position, which I have done. As my noble friend Lady Anelay said, the options available to a local authority, after hearing all the evidence of a serious problem concerning drugs, are that it may take no action, impose terms and conditions or revoke the licence where doing so would assist in dealing with the problem.

The courts are not so empowered and for that reason a provision has been included in the Bill to enable them to grant a stay in revoking the licence until the time for bringing an appeal against revocation has expired or until an appeal has been determined or abandoned.

I agree with my noble friend that granting a similar power to local authorities is unnecessary. In any event, the issues surrounding the revocation are addressed in the first draft of the Home Office circular. The seriousness of the consequences of non-renewal or revocation--that the licensees will not be able to operate the club pending the hearing of any appeal--are referred to in the circular. No doubt the advice in the circular on that and other issues will be refined further in the course of the consultation process which we have agreed to undertake. I hope that the noble Lord will not press the amendment.

Lord Meston: My Lords, I am grateful for the explanation both from the noble Baroness and the Minister. It seems to me that that makes it all the more important that the guidance should provide for a sufficient hearing before the licensing committee which enables the licence holder to state his case fully and properly.

19 Mar 1997 : Column 1001

However, I accept the further point made by the noble Baroness that under the machinery of the Bill as it now remains, there is the further stage of ability to make representations after the event which, in a sense, is a form of appeal. For that reason, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [Licensing in Greater London]:

Lord Meston moved Amendment No. 7:


Page 3, line 34, leave out ("or near the premises") and insert ("the premises or at any premises nearby which are controlled by the holder of the licence").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 8:


Page 4, line 8, at end insert--
("(6) The Council shall have regard in exercising their functions under this paragraph to such guidance as may be issued by the Secretary of State."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Meston moved Amendments Nos. 9 and 10:


Page 4, line 8, at end insert--
("( ) In this paragraph "premises" includes any place."").
Page 4, line 14, leave out ("or near the premises") and insert ("the premises or at any premises nearby which are controlled by the holder of the licence").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 11:


Page 4, line 33, at end insert--
("(5) The Council shall have regard in exercising their functions under this paragraph to such guidance as may be issued by the Secretary of State."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Meston moved Amendments Nos. 12 and 13:


Page 4, line 33, at end insert--
("( ) In this paragraph "premises" includes any place."").
Page 4, line 40, leave out ("or near the premises") and insert ("the premises or at any premises nearby which are controlled by the holder of the licence").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 14:


Page 4, leave out lines 43 and 44 and insert--
("(4B) The standard of proof for the purposes of sub-paragraph (4A) of this paragraph is that applicable in civil proceedings and in that sub-paragraph "premises" includes any place."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

19 Mar 1997 : Column 1002

[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]

Lord Meston moved Amendment No. 16:


Before Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

Guidance by the Secretary of State

(" . The Secretary of State may issue guidance providing (among other matters)--
(a) that, except in an emergency, the licensing authority or Council shall not revoke or refuse to renew or transfer a licence or impose terms, conditions or restrictions thereon unless satisfied that the owners or managers of the place have been informed by the police of their concerns about the supply or use of controlled drugs at or near the place and have had a reasonable opportunity to meet those concerns;
(b) that any report by the police to the licensing authority or Council shall summarise previous exchanges between the police and the licence holder, owners or managers of the place about their concerns about the supply or use of controlled drugs at or near the place;
(c) that, except in an emergency, the licensing authority or Council shall not revoke or refuse to renew or transfer a licence or impose terms, conditions or restrictions thereon without first affording the licence holder an opportunity of being heard by the authority or Council and of making representations to them;
(d) that, in considering whether action by the licensing authority or Committee will significantly assist in dealing with a serious problem relating to the supply or use of controlled drugs near the place, the authority or Council shall also consider what control the licence holder, owners or managers have over any place outside the licensed premises, what security and surveillance measures are, or will be in force at the licensed premises and what other powers the police could exercise apart from under this Act; and
(e) explanations of what may constitute a "serious problem" and of what is meant by "will significantly assist in dealing with the problem.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have progressed considerably with this Bill in that on the face of the Bill there is provision for there to be guidance and I suggest that that is a considerable improvement. But it must be remembered that guidance is only guidance and we are legislating in a field in which at present, there are no uniform procedures as between different licensing authorities. For that reason, I suggest in this amendment that certain minimum provisions should appear in the guidance and I have set those out in the amendment.

Those provisions are familiar topics in the context of the discussions that we have had while the Bill has passed through your Lordships' House. First, "except in an emergency", a licence should not be revoked or terms be imposed unless the police have informed the owners or managers of the place of their concerns and those people have had a reasonable opportunity to meet such concerns. Secondly, the amendment provides that any report by the police should summarise previous exchanges between the police and the licence holders, and others. I have shamelessly lifted that from the first draft of the guidance. I hope, therefore, that it will not be controversial.

Thirdly, the amendment provides that, except in an emergency, the licensing authority should not exercise its powers to revoke, and so on, without giving the licence holder the opportunity to be heard and to make representations. The fourth provision which I seek to

19 Mar 1997 : Column 1003

introduce is, I suspect, now otiose, because it is covered by the amendments which have already been accepted relating to the removal of the expression "near the place". Nevertheless, I hope that the point that I am trying to make is a good one; namely, that if the operation of the Bill is to be fair, and is seen to be fair to all concerned, there ought to be some minimum provision to ensure fair procedures on the face of the Bill, and provided for within the guidance. At the very least, I hope that the Government can give an assurance that all of these matters will be adequately covered within the guidance. I beg to move.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, a clear undertaking has been given to produce a circular in consultation with local authorities, the police and the club trade with advice on all the issues covered by the amendments. There is a first draft which the Home Office will use as the basis for the consultation process. I am sure that the points raised during our debates in this House will be taken into account at that stage.

The guidance in the circular cannot, and I believe should not, be prescriptive. It is designed to extend and develop the many examples across England and Wales where the police, local authorities and club owners are already working together and where local procedures have been devised to counter the threat posed locally by drugs. I do not believe that we should include such detail on the face of the Bill. It would complicate the issue and could hamper the very process of developing the co-operation and flexibility for which we should be looking. In the circumstances, I hope that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw the amendment.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page