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The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, it is indeed a shame, and I very much regret that this is the case. It is the first time in more than 30 years' sitting in your Lordships' House that I have had such a conflict. I hope that I may be forgiven on this one occasion.
I should also declare a tentative interest. I was a director of one or two brewery companies between 1972 and 1992. I no longer have any involvement with the licensed trade but I still enjoy visiting pubs and clubs and I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group.
I believe that the Bill in part owes its genesis to the excellent report of Lord Erroll of Hale, which was completed in 1972. Because of my involvement in the industry at that time I remember it well. It contained many enlightened ideas and it is somewhat frustrating that the distillation process has taken 30 years. Were he with us today I am sure that he would have given broad support to the aims and objectives of the Bill, although perhaps less support for some of the methods of achieving them.
Bringing ourselves more into line with our European neighbours and many other parts of the world seems to be a sensible idea. It will put a degree of trust and responsibility on to the shoulders of the drinking public. I am sure that in the main they will rise to that challenge. If drinking time is decompressed, it must make it less likely that the problems which currently occur when so many drinkers are put on to the street at around 11 p.m. will be perpetuated. Indeed, the Scottish experience bears that out and shows that the volume drunk did not increase but was spread over a longer period.
The White Paper which trailed the advent of the Bill was widely welcomed for its clarity and its objective of simplifying the licensing process, but the Bill, with over 200 clauses, risks jeopardising that. For example, the idea of splitting the licence into a personal and premises licence seemed a good one as originally portrayed. It would have allowed a licensee moving to a new area simply to register with the police and local authority and would have greatly cut down the paperwork and court time. However, as the Bill is currently drafted, it appears that much local authority committee time will be still taken up with vetting licence changes. The process described in the Bill of having a designated premises supervisor is anything but simple, and I believe should be the subject of scrutiny and amendment at later stages of the Bill's progress.
In the White Paper a central register of licensees was proposed. However, the Bill expects local authorities to administer personal licences once granted by them throughout their duration irrespective of where that person subsequently lives and works. In my experience, licensees thought nothing of travelling hundreds of miles to move to licensed premises which they thought suited them and their family. I can see considerable difficulties for local authorities maintaining their register over time. That seems impractical and unworkable and needs to be looked at again.
A proliferation of forms and procedures certainly will not make the system more effective, protect local residents or improve policing. It is possible that the guidance notes to the Bill, which have been promised by the Government, will bring some clarity, but surely it would be infinitely preferable to have those on the face of the Billa point made by my noble friend Lady Buscombe and others. I understand that the guidance notes will be available before we start Committee stage. I hope that the Minister can confirm that that will be the case. Will police guidance, which has also been promised, be available beforehand?
Another aspect of the Bill which concerns me is holding a licensee or bar worker responsible and liable to a fine for serving someone drinks knowing him or her to be drunk. I know that that is already part of current legislation, but when we consider how difficult it is for someone working behind a bar to make a snap judgmental assessment about a person's level of intoxication every time a drink is ordered on a busy Saturday night, it seems to place an onerous responsibility on the barman. What happens if someone who appears sober orders a round of drinks for his friends who may be inebriated but are out of sight of the barman? I wonder how many cases are brought before the courts each year and how many result in a conviction.
While on the subject of offences, I believe that the use of endorsements on personal licences was supported by most sectors of the industry. However, it was felt that in the interests of natural justice such endorsements should be removed after three years or at the end of the tariff period where such offences are spent. There is currently no such provision in the Bill.
Having pointed towards some perceived shortcomings in the Bill, I should like to conclude on a positive note. The leisure and hospitality sector in this country is worth £64 billion to the UK economy and employs one-tenth of our entire workforce. We have a unique heritage in our old pubs, which are a considerable tourist attraction. We now have the opportunity to allow our entrepreneurs to make best use of these and other assets by selecting the hours best suited to them. That should make them more cost effective to run and increase jobs in the sector. There should be less drink-related trouble on the street at around 11 p.m., and the tourist industry should respond positively to these changes.
Lord Tope: My Lords, I begin by declaring rather too many interests, but sadly none as a director of a brewery. I am a member of the London Assembly, which will shortly publish the results of its investigation into 24-hour licensing. I am a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, but I shall leave my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond to speak on policing matters, about which she is far more authoritative. As part of that role I have a particular responsibility for the London boroughs of Croydon and Sutton, both of which have what is politely termed a lively night economy. On several occasions I have been out with the police on Friday and Saturday evenings and need no video to tell me the sort of experiences they have.
Also, I am a London borough councillor. However, I believe the most relevant interest I have to declare is that for over 28 years I have represented a town centre wardI still dowhich now has a lively night economy but also a substantial number of residents, many of whom are elderly, living adjacent to the town centre.
Like all my colleagues I welcome the Bill. I do so with qualifications. I have a number of concerns, most of which have been expressed in tonight's debate but bear repetition and will be repeated. I support the Bill particularly because I believe that when it leaves this House it will be a better Bill. Like others who have spoken I believe we need the Bill because our rather antiquated licensing laws need reform. I am far from convinced that the reforms here will solve the problems of binge drinking or heavy drinking. As others have said, that is much more an aspect of British culture, if that is not too grand a word, rather than a result of our licensing laws.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, perhaps I may be so bold as to intervene. I made the point that outside organisations had stated that they had been briefed by government officials that the Government were phasing out magistrates' courts.
I welcome the Bill because of the transfer to local government. I want to believe that the reason for that is because the Government recognise the role of local authorities as community leaders in developing the community plan; the crime and disorder strategy, and the regeneration of town centres: all proper responsibilities which local authorities have developed and which government have placed on them. I want to believe that the transfer is because the Government acknowledge the accountability of local authorities and that that will make the licensing provisions more reflective of local interests, local circumstances and local concerns.
Those are all things I want to believe. However, I have a nagging doubt that what this is really about is a local delivery mechanism for central government control. When I repeat some of the concerns that have already been expressed, particularly by the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornton and Lady Hanhamneither of whom is in her placeI hope that the Minister who is to respond will be able to give some reassurances.
Clause 5 of the Bill requires each local authority to produce a statement of licensing policy. Subsection (7) requires the Secretary of State to make regulations. I should like to hear a little more from the Minister about what is envisaged in those regulations. How restrictive and prescriptive will they be? Can we hope that they will be "light touch" regulations which simply set a general framework under which each local authority can develop its own statement of licensing policy? I live in hope.
Fees have been referred to many times. I regret very much that the Government have seen fit to set fee levels centrally. I would have preferred them to allow that to be done at a local level in order to reflect local needs, local circumstances and, particularly, local costs. The Government are not prepared to go that far, but I hope that they will be able to reassure me that there will be a fair degree of flexibility in the setting of fee levels. Do the Government accept that the full costs of a licensing authority, from policy development to enforcement, should be met through fee income and not subsidised by the taxpayer, be it the local taxpayer or the national taxpayer?
In declaring my interests, I mentioned that I have been a town centre councillor for more than 28 years. In that time, town centres have changed beyond recognitionsometimes for the good and sometimes, particularly for those living nearby, not for the good. Far fewer people live in town centres now than when I first became a councillor. We now have longer shopping hours and Sunday shopping; we have far more pubs and clubs in town centre areas than used to be the case. In general, I welcome that. Indeed, I have been part of the development that has enhanced the town centre economy enormously, made the town centre a livelier place and, in general terms, made it a safer place at night because there are more people around. But the people who have not benefited from the change are those who live not quite in the town centre but immediately around it. These people have to put up with all the daytime comings and goings and parking problems, and now they have to put up with the comings, and more particularly the goings, the dispersal, late at night and in the early hours of the morning.
I am concerned that in the list of licensing objectives in Clause 4 there is no mention of what is termed the "wider vicinity". I hope that the Minister will confirm that the Government accept that the effects on the wider community are a legitimate objective that could and should be included in the licensing objectives and, therefore, in Clause 4.
Others have referred to the cumulative effect. I am concerned that licensing authorities will not be able, apparently, to take any notice of that. It has been said that that can be dealt with through planning legislation. The 28 years that I have spent on a planning authority and representing a town centre ward have shown me how very ineffective are our planning laws in controlling the cumulative effect of the number of licensed premises in a town centre. I speak with experience from my own ward. Can the Government assure the House that they will take cognisance of the cumulative effect? If not, why not?
For similar reasons I am concerned about temporary events and the fact that only the police will be permitted to object to them. It is quite right that the police should have that power, but surely it should be extended to the fire service, to the local authority itself, in a different role, and to local residents. I recognise that there may well be a time limit problem as this has to happen within 10 days, but I would rather see an extension to the time limit and deal with such applications properly and effectively and reflecting local circumstances than simply meet an arbitrarily imposed time limit, even though the Government have stated that they hope in most cases the notice given will be more than 10 days.
I have similar concerns to those expressed elsewhere about capacity. I agree that all licensed premises should have the maximum permitted capacity stated on the licence. That particular concern has been expressed to me by my own local authority.
I support the Bill in the belief, if not yet the expectation, that it is moving responsibility to local government and not to local administrationthere is an important difference; that the Government recognise the democratic legitimacy of local government and that that is their reason for the transfer; and, if that is their reason, that they will allow maximum flexibility to reflect local circumstances and local needs. Finally, I repeat that I hope the Government will be persuaded to recognise and take into account the interests of the wider communities that live around these licensed premises.
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, while I am broadly in favour of the Bill, particularly the aims of reducing crime and disorder as well as alcohol misuse and encouraging tourism and self-sufficient rural communities, I have a few legal and practical concerns relating to the statutory processes contained within the Bill.
I have always been an avid supporter of deregulation. In fact, I was involved in the campaign for more flexible drinking laws with Lord Montgomery of Alamein following the Erroll report, which thankfully culminated in the passing of the Licensing (Sunday Hours) Act 1995.
In opening the debate, the Minister referred to paragraph 338 of the Explanatory Notes and the fact that there are currently 182,000 existing premises, estimated soon to rise to more than 200,000. With each premises employing on average seven people, this equates to well over 1 million employees who will be affected by the Bill. My principal concern is the apparent lack of statutory time limits for dealing with applications when the Bill moves responsibility from magistrates' courts to local authorities. I note that it states in Clause 178 that regulations will be prescribed to deal with this, but it will be a worry to many licensee applicants that there is no clarification at present.
Currently the Licensing Act 1964 prescribes the time limits for making applications to magistrates for new grants, transfers, consents to alterations, occasional licences and other related issues. The same cannot be said of the London Government Act 1963, as amended, which deals with the grant of public entertainment licences and night cafe licences. The time limits are left to the discretion of local authorities, which can sometimes sit on an application, either because they do not like the applicant or they do not like the premises, for an inordinate amount of time,
For example, I recently heard of a case where a licensee, after winning a court victory against Westminster City CouncilI notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, who is interested in Westminster City Council, is in her placefound that his entertainment licence application had been shelved for two years. Sadly, he had a stroke before the council heard it and had to withdraw. His only remedy would have been to institute judicial review proceedings against the council for an order of mandamus from the High Courta process which costs a minimum of £30,000 in legal fees and is beyond the affordability of most individuals.
It is essential that uniform statutory time limits are set throughout the country in the same way that currently exists under the Licensing Act 1964 so that there can be no prejudice when dealing with applications from one local authority to another.
I note that in 1999, George Howarth, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, strongly supported the principle of local licensing decisions but said that it was important for the credibility of the process that decisions were seen to be based on common principles. He believed that a transfer of jurisdiction from the magistrates' courts to the local authorities would be a retrograde step. The magistrates' court system, despite all its inconsistencies, has worked and continues to work well.
Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the statutory time limits for making applications to local authorities, pursuant to the provisions of Clause 178 of the Bill, will be broadly in line with those prescribed under the Licensing Act 1964; namely, that applications of all descriptions should be dealt with within 30 days?
My second concern is one echoed by nearly all licensees who have experienced local authorities dealing with applications for entertainment licences. This is borne out by the recent poll taken by the Publican, a publication supporting the views of licensees throughout the country. There is inevitably an inherent inequality between the licensee and a local resident. While the Convention on Human Rights makes it clear that a licensee is just as entitled to the quiet enjoyment of his or her licence as a resident is entitled to a good night's sleep, there is a danger of bias on the part of some local authorities towards their own residents who are in fact their own voters.
This can prove farcical where in certain wardsfor instance, the West End ward contained within the City of Westminsterlicensees and their employees far outnumber (in some cases by 10 to one) the number of residents. Yet the council, which has admitted to granting too many licences in the past decade, now arbitrarily seeks to refuse licences on the uncorroborated evidence of a single resident.
While I agree that it is only fair that local residents should have a reasonable say in the granting of liquor and entertainment licences in their area, there is valid concern that councils will find it hard to maintain a sense of equity and equality when faced with pressure from their voters versus the licensee, who may not even live in the same local authority and therefore will not be a voter there.
This could lead to a swamping of the magistrates' courts under the Bill's appeal process. Even though I am no longer a practising solicitor, my understanding is that the magistrates' courts currently deal with between 50 and 150 cases in a monthly licensing session. If they are swamped with appeals by applicant licensees, those will have to be considered individually, with witnesses called and evidence taken, and the magistrates' courts could possibly be booked for up to two days on a single case. In this regard, do the Government have any suggestions as to how the potential inequality between licence applicants and resident voters might be addressed by local authority licensing committees?
There are concerns on the new licence fees. While there has not been a wholesale reform of licence costs, is it true that following the enactment of this legislation the cost of a pub licence will increase from £30 to almost £400? This could dramatically affect smaller licensed premises, which are already under enormous financial pressure.
In conclusion, I welcome the Bill to the extent that it effectively changes our outdated laws, but hope that a fair balance can be reached between the interests of licensees and residents and that the aims of the Bill to reduce crime and disorder and alcohol misuse, as well as encouraging tourism and self-sufficient rural communities, can be achieved.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, I, too, give a general welcome to the Bill, although quite what my non-conformist grandparents would have made of it, I am not sure. They were pillars of the temperance movement, signed the pledge and sang hymns such as:
Many noble Lords will have received representations from the trade and from other interested parties about the Bill. There is a great deal of support for it. But there is some concern about switching responsibility for licensing from magistrates to local authorities. Here, though, I am convinced that the greater benefitsparticularly in terms of greater public accountabilitythat will come from the new arrangements will far outweigh any possible increase in bureaucracy.
There are a number of reasons why that is so. Perhaps I may give just three. First, the system must be democratically accountable to the people whose lives are directly affectedthat is, local councils. Secondly, local authorities are responsible for crime prevention
The Bill provides a great opportunity to move forward on two related but separate objectives of public policy about which I have spoken on a number of occasions in this House. The first is the need to protect children, non-smokers and hospitality industry employees from the dangers and unpleasantness of passive smoking. This would be a good opportunity to break the link, regrettably enshrined in the industry's so-called Public Places Charter, between smoking, and eating and drinking.
Some members of the industry, such as Wetherspoon, realise that it is good business to provide for non-smokers in their establishments. That company's chairman, Tim Martin, told me last week that a third of its accommodation is non-smoking and that it also prohibits smoking around the bar in order to protect employees from the effects of passive smoking.
There are a lot of people, myself included, who would enjoy going to the pub more if we could be sure that our clothes and our hair would not be reeking of tobacco smoke at the end of the evening. As adults, we can choose whether to enter a smoky environment. But children, who under the terms of the Bill will be free to enter licensed premises, do not have that choice if their parents take them in.
It would seem that Clause 4, setting out the general duties of licensing authorities, provides a means of addressing this issue. Subsection (2)(d) specifically states that the protection of children from harm is one of the four licensing objectives. My noble friend the Minister stressed this aspect in her speech earlier. Can she confirm that this subsection would allow licensing authorities to specify that children may only be taken into smoke-free areas of licensed premises? Secondly, would it be possible to include in this subsection an additional general duty on licensing authorities to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers in licensed premises? I hope that we can look at that matter in Committee also.
The second area in which this Bill will enable us to make important progress is in eliminating sex discrimination in private members' clubsa matter to which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and my noble friend Lord Evans of Parkside referred. Your Lordships may recall that in the previous Session the House approved, almost without dissent, a Private Member's Bill that I introduced to amend the Sex
As is the fate of virtually every Private Member's Bill that passes through your Lordships' House, my Bill failed for lack of time in another place. But, in view of the strong expressions of support it received from Ministers in both Houses, I hope that my noble friend will look favourably on amendments to this Bill to achieve the same objectives. I look forward to working with my noble friend Lord Evans of Parkside, who clearly wants to achieve the same objectives.
I am advised by the Government's Women and Equality Unit that, in repealing Section 7 of the Licensing Act 1964, which denies women, and indeed men, equal and full voting rights in clubs with mainly male, or mainly female, membership, this Bill resolves the issue of governance, as all members are given the right to vote. That is a very helpful step forward, but I am not certain whether it will end the scandal of discriminatory two-tier membership of so-called full members and associates whereby admission to each category of membership is determined solely according to the sex of the member. Neither does it seem to address the issue of ensuring access to club facilitieswomen being barred from the snooker room or made to play golf only at times when the men do not want to.
However, it is a start, and I hope that the Government will look sympathetically on amendments in Committee that would help to take these matters forward. This is a promising Bill, and I am pleased to give it my support.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, I welcome any Bill that benefits the industry, protects local communities and is simpler and more cost-effective for local authorities to administer. During the passage of this Bill, we will have to ask ourselves whether the legislation does that.
I declare an interest as a director and shareholder of a bars business. We have 26 bars in this country, their locations ranging from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Leeds, Newcastle and London. We have 1,300 employees, and on a Saturday night, I am glad to say, we have a capacity of up to around 26,000 customers. I must admit that I have had a drink in almost every bar. So, I have, at the very least, a superficial
The central question, which many noble Lords asked, is whether the extension of hours to allow the late-night opening of pubs, clubs or bars is a good thing. The answer must be: yes, in certain areas. It has helped to revitalise inner cities, but it is not good in residential areas. It has helped in some areas to keep the young off the streets, but provided that they are in regulated, safe premises. The West End is now a vibrant city centre. I pay tribute to Westminster City Council for its policy. Tourism is a very important industry in this country, as we heard, and our capital city finally offers tourists what has been lacking for many years.
The other question is whether the extension of late-night licensing would exacerbate drinking. No, if it is carefully regulated and licensed. In cities where there is no late-night licensing, there is nothing for young people to do. For example, Oxford has had terrible problems, with young people involved in car-jacking and driving around at night, particularly in the Blackbird Leys estate. Safe and civilised venues must be a good thing. I accept concerns about high-density clusters of bars in certain areas. I hope the Government will consider that local authorities should be able to take account of that when issuing licences.
The overall message must be that we must encourage good, responsible and reputable operators. The new powers must allow local authorities to close operators that cannot match those standards. I welcome the proposals regarding children. It is extremely important that if they are allowed onto licensed premises, it will be to well-regulated venues only. The most important issue in that regard, and the one message that I hope the Government will take home, is that the one way to control that problem is to control capacity. We all know, and see too often in London and many cities, pubs from which drinkers flow onto street pavements. They have no capacity limits. Sometimes it is unsafe for pubs to have so many people. Late-night licences have very strict capacity limits and a door policy. Those capacity limits should be extended to any pubs intending to open late. The one thing that discourages bad behaviour is a limit on the number of people. If there are too many people, problems arise.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that the Government should consider extending the transitional period. Six months is a short period for local authorities to work within. It is a large, complicated industry. The noble Lord, Lord St John, addressed the concern about the strict criteria that local authorities will, or will not, follow. In the past, licensing magistrates had to follow strict criteria. The noble Lord is right that in certain areas local residents feel very strongly. Sometimes it is the majority view that needs to be taken account of, and sometimes, as he said, it is the view of just one person.
I wish to ask the Government a couple of questions. First, with the implementation of these new rules, it will be very important that the Private Security Industry Act 2001 is allowed to be brought in by Schedule 4 to the Bill. That would affect the control of people on the door. If there is to be any extension of hours, that Act must be implemented. When the Bill went through this House, the Government said it would be two or three years. Can the Minister say more on when it will be implemented?
Secondly, the Government say in the Explanatory Notes that the legislation is about opening seven days a week, 24 hours a day. What is the Government's policy on Sundays? I am confused; I do not know. Do they have a policy on Sundays? Are they leaving that policy to be decided by local authorities? Do they believe that the policy applied during the rest of the week should apply on Sundays? It will be interesting to hear the Minister's reply. Do the Government really believe that there will be a market for 24-hour opening? I do not think that that will be the case. I think very few operators in the industry will conceive of opening 24 hours a day. I do not think the customers will be there. What do the Government mean by that? Are they saying that we are going to be flexible and it might be two o'clock, it might be three o'clock and on New Year's Eve it might be four o'clock? Do they really think that operators in this country will close their business at six or eight o'clock in the morning? That seems very unlikely and I am not sure that it is what we want. We want the bars and restaurants in our capital city to become more like those in Madrid rather than like those in Ibiza. It is important that the Government take that on board.
The Government have announced the Bill without giving much guidance on how they see it operating, not only in the guidance that they have to publish, but in saying what they believe in. Are they saying that it is up to the industry and the local authorities? They cannot do that. The Government must come clean.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, when I first looked at the Bill, I turned to the schedules, where the meat usually resides. Schedule 6 gives us the minor and consequential amendments23 and a bit pages of them. Schedule 7 gives us the repeals to the current law on licensingsix pages, including Acts going back to 1743. Twenty one whole Acts are repealed, together with a plethora of sections in a host of other Acts. Is it any wonder that we need amendment and reform?
My interest in the Bill stems from my background of involvement with the police service. Until recently, I chaired a police authority for eight years and had been a police authority member for 20 years. During that time, I was also a magistrateand a licensing magistratefor 16 years. I was also vice-chairman of the Association of Police Authorities and I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association.
I am immensely indebted to all the policing organisations that have helped me with my research, including the Association of Chief Police Officers, and particularly the Police Superintendents' Association, which contacted all BCU commanders for their views, and the Police Federation. I am also indebted to individual officers who have given me their advice and to the trade organisations that have given freely of their time to answer the many questions put to them.
As might be expected, the police reflect society as a whole. There are therefore differing views throughout the organisation about the proposed legislation. I shall try to reflect some of those views, which I also share. In so doing, I hope to highlight particular areas in which it is felt that more work needs to be done.
Like the police, I am concerned about some parts of the Bill, although I very much support the general thrust. When I was a magistrate, before granting a new licence my colleagues and I would have someone in the witness box under oath answering rigorous questions about their suitability to hold a licence to determine whether the applicant was a fit and proper person. We were pretty tough about that questioning.
While I recognise that the vast majority of licence holders are suitable, fit and proper people, I am troubled that the Bill does not have that provision. ACPO shares my concerns. There must be clear guidance applicable to all licensing authorities about the meaning of a "relevant offence" and when that is spent, allowing someone to apply for a personal licence. ACPO also wants the licensing authority to consult the police about every application for a personal licence and wants the police to have the rightin exceptional circumstances and based on the licensing objectivesto object to the grant of a licence to an individual.
As your Lordships might imagine, a great many officers registered their concerns about police resources in order to undertake the functions under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. My noble friend Lord Avebury, who is not in his place, referred to that in lurid detail.
A number of respondents told me that their resources are stretched badly in the early hours of the morning. All interested parties need to understand that. One suggested way round that was that licence holders, either individually or, more probably, premises licence holders, could have an amount added to their business rate to help pay for the extra policing envisaged, particularly of large city centre venues. Have the Government recognised that concern and will it be addressed during the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House? Do the Government intend the licensing authority to take its
That point extends to planning inspectors, who will listen to appeals from the industry against decisions by planning authorities not to grant planning permission or change of use for new premises selling alcohol. Will they be required to take into account Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act? What sanctions will be available if they do not?
Other areas of general police concern that I should like the Minister to look at include the apparently unfettered access of children into premises serving alcohol, the cumulative effect of multi-locations, the sometimes aggressive marketing undertaken by some establishments that results in excessive or binge drinking and the need for a national database to help identify abuse of the system by unscrupulous people going to different licensing authorities seeking a licence, having been turned down for one previously in another area.
There are other issues around premises licences and the larger capacity night clubs. It is felt that there should be a higher level of qualification for holding such a licence and that an individual undertaking the role of a designated premises supervisor should be responsible for only one particular set of premises at a time. As we have heard from other noble Lords, concerns have also been expressed about capacity limits, which are presently imposed on premises that have a public entertainment licence.
All that having been said, however, I would not like your Lordships to be in any doubt about my welcome for the Bill. I understand that the Government have listened carefully to and implemented many of the suggestions put to them at the consultative stages by the police and by the industry as a whole before the Bill was published. We have tried out longer opening hours and they were a great success. Many police officers have told me that they feel that perceived problems will now ease once things have settled down and that the reality of economics will determine when licensed premises are open. Staggered closing times might be chosen, which would help allay many concerns about pouring into the streets and would also enable the police to use their resources better.
The upshot is that licensees will be able to decide on their own hours based on commercial considerations. The police and the licensing authority can keep a watchful eye on how those individuals and premises undertake their clear and rigorous responsibilities under the Act. Many officers have told me that levels of violence and disorder have reduced dramatically in their areas where premises have been allowed to remain open until the early hours and not been forced to close at an unrealistically earlier time. They believe that it will prevent the so-called binge drinking that causes so much concern to people and is the cause of a great deal of anti-social behaviour.
Lord Monson: My Lords, it is fascinating to compare the approaches of the two major parties to licensing reform. In the 18 years after May 1979, the Conservatives, despite professing to be the party of individual freedom, were curiously tentative, even semi-apologetic, when it came to relaxing the law in this field and in many similar fields where one might have expected a more libertarian approach.
In fact, with the help of a good deal of prodding from your Lordships' House, the laws were relaxed to a considerable extent. No longer is it impossible to get a drink at five o'clock in the afternoon on a weekday. Above all, no longer is one prevented from getting a drink after 2 p.m. on a Sunday, with or without one's late lunch. That particular ban was quite intolerable.
The trouble was that the Conservatives always justified the changes in strictly utilitarian terms: that they would earn the country more dollars, francs, deutschmarks or lire, or that they would help to reduce rural unemployment. They seemed terrified of extolling freedom for the sake of freedom, with the result that they never got the full credit they deserved for those overdue reforms.
New Labour, in amazing contrast, has outwardly donned the mantle of John Stuart Mill and declares that adults should be allowed to drink any time, anywhere, provided, of course, that others are not harmed thereby. Mill's proviso is an extremely important one, and there is the rub where disputes over the Bill could occur.
It is only when you examine the small print that you realise that reality does not live up to the rhetoric. This is not entirely the Government's fault because, however half-heartedly and belatedly, the Conservatives got there first. And for every 100 people who for many years now have been able to enjoy a drink between 2 and 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon or between 3 and 5 p.m. on a weekday afternoon, there is one person at most who wants to drink at 1, 2 or 3 a.m. Such people are greatly outnumbered by householders who do not want anything open after midnight. They would include the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and, I would imagine from his remarks, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.
I do not deny for a moment that there is a case for allowing city centre premises to stay open until half-past 11 or midnight to cater for those coming out of cinemas and theatres. But given the dearth of public transport after midnight, combined, in London at any rate, with the most expensive taxi fares in Europe and
Where the Government can justly be condemned over the Bill is in claiming that there will be sharply reduced costs for licenseesand I include charities and churches, as the right reverend Prelate explainedand a virtual bonfire of regulations. Judging by all the criticism one has read over the past fortnight, not least from the churches, it appears to be the precise opposite of the case. However, it is for others to deal with that matter. A number of noble Lords have done so and a number of others will no doubt do so before long.
I hope that I may en passant suggest one possible example of genuine deregulation to which few people could, I think, object. Let all virtually non-alcoholic beerthat is to say, beer of less than 1 per cent alcoholic strength by volumebe sold anywhere in the country at any time without any need for a licence of any sort. For anatomical and physiological reasons it is almost impossible to get drunk on the stuff. If I am wrong, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, or the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, will correct me. Perhaps we can return to that suggestion at a later stage of the Bill.
I turn to one of the alleged justifications for 24-hour opening, the needs of the tourist trade. I shall deal with North Americans first. Few of them drink much nowadays, certainly not the sort of Americans or Canadians who travel to Europe, and even fewer want to drink in the small hours of the morning. We are told that that may well be so but continentals are used to drinking all day and all night and expect to be able to do so when they come to this country. What absolute rubbish. One can only suppose that those who make that claim have confined their European travels to Ibiza, mentioned just now by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor. It is true that establishments in large cities in mainland Spain such as Madrid and Valencia also stay open late but they do so only because the Spanish are unique in Europe in taking their main meals two hours later than anyone else.
France is a much more representative country. The average French provincial small city or large town is absolutely dead after nine o'clock in the evening except on holidays or feast days numbering perhaps a dozen a year. Even Paris is less lively than present day London. Not so long ago I had to pound the streets of the ninth arrondissement for a long time just south of the Gare St Lazare looking for a cafe that was open at 10.30 p.m. so that I could have a cup of coffee and a cigarette. The same applies to nearly all of northern and central Europe and to much of the Mediterranean, particularly in the off-season.
I turn to the notion that abolishing fixed closed hours will abolish rowdiness. I simply do not buy that. I know that I am on tricky ground here because the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has just said the precise opposite, as have others. But what happens if all the licensees in a city centre decide that they want to go on closing at 11 o'clock in the evening because they are
Incidentally, one way of reducing rowdiness, admittedly not by very much but it would help, would be to align the duty on drinks more closely to their alcoholic content. For example, the duty on the weaker beers such as the French biere familiale or the Swedish Lattol or a number of 2.2 per cent alcohol beers I have spotted in this country could be lowered quite sharply and that on the stronger beers above 5.5 per cent alcohol by volume could be raised significantly. Of course, we cannot do anything about that in this Bill as it is outside its ambit, but perhaps Mr Gordon Brown could give the matter some thought in advance of his next Budget.
I commend to your LordshipsI apologise if it has been raised before while I have been outside the Chamber having tea or whateveran article on the main editorial page of the Independent dated 14th November headed,
When I glanced at the Bill about 10 days ago I thought that it was a bit of a curate's egg but still basically edible. For example, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that the Bill makes some sensible provisions regarding the presence of children in pubs. But after all the criticisms that one has read and heard I am not so sure. I feel that this particular egg needs a lot of legislative heat treatment before it can be safely consumed. How fortunate the nation is to have so many talented legislative masterchefs in this House ready and willing to apply remedial treatment to the Bill at later stages.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, we have had a fascinating debate. It is clear that, like myself, every speaker has had to select three or four aspects out of dozens. That does not mean to say that we are not interested in the other aspects but we have chosen those that we believe should be highlighted.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, should be pleased at the general welcome that has been given to the Bill as it seeks to put certain overdue provisions on the statute book. They should be pleased that noble Lords on all sides of the House have sufficient knowledge, experience and contact with the matter we are discussing to be able to make helpful contributions to our discussions. I declare an interest in that, with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, I am the joint president of the Association of London Government. I am not the only former leader of a council over the past 30 years who now sits in this House. Local
I also declare my lifelong association with the Co-operative Movement, of which the House is well aware. I am a strong supporter of the British Retail Consortium. I note that a former director general of the retail consortium is present in the person of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, although I do not think that he mentioned that matter tonight. I merely make the point that the House is well served by people who have experience of the matter we are discussing.
When I read my papers, I was struck by the paragraph that stated that six licensing regimes are brought together in the Billthose relating to alcohol, public entertainment, cinemas, theatres, late-night refreshment houses and night cafes. Those are all matters about which we may have something to say because they affect us, and we shall come to some interesting stages later.
However, from the retailer's and the shop worker's points of view, one of my main concerns is how one defines precisely the age at which people may or may not buy commodities. In relation to the proof of age issue, I would like the Minister to tell us exactly what his department's position is in relation to trying to help retailers to do their job, which is to stick to the letter of the law that we lay down. Different ages16, 18, 21apply to the purchase of different products. Shopkeepers need to be able to challenge customers whose ages they doubt by requesting to see their proof of age cards. That is a matter that should be considered.
The title of the White Paper is Time for Reform. That time is now. We now have the opportunity to deal with it. Our liquor licensing laws are out of date and unduly complicated. To my mind, the main proposals fall into four categories: to reduce crime and disorder; to reduce public safety; to prevent public nuisance; and to prevent children from harm. There is a very clear case for what I call responsible retailing. Not only the Co-op, of which I am proud, but also the whole of the retail industry wants to act responsibly and do what is right. The Co-op Societies do not take that responsibility lightly. How do they do that? Leaflets providing sensible messages about drinking are freely available to customers in stores. For instance, the Co-op was the first UK retailer to put clear warnings on its range of own-brand wines, beers and spirits, enabling them for the first time, on pack, to check the alcohol content of the product against government-recommended sensible drinking guidelines. They also take the sensible drinking message out to the wider community. They have certainly supported the BRC's development of due diligence guidelines for age-restricted products. The Co-op certainly supports the BRC in its campaign for a proof of age card.
There is also a clear case for the modernisation and simplification of the liquor licensing regime. I have listened to Members of the House telling us of their experiences. As I drive from the House at night-time, sometimes passing through Islington, the sight of a
I have listened very carefully to what the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said about the special problems of the London councils. There is no doubt that the London councils have a particular problem that needs to be addressed, especially on the question of fees. I certainly support the proposal to transfer the prime responsibility in this field from magistrates to local authorities. That is not intended to downgrade magistrates, but as a recognition of the reality that in respect of the total community the councils must bear a responsibility for strategic planning and for what happens in the wider community.
I should like to say a word about premises and personal licences. Care must be taken to ensure that the proposals for two different licences, one for premises in which the sale and supply of alcohol takes place and the other for the person who sells alcohol, do not lead to an overly-complicated situation. In relation to licences for premises, the Bill proposes that a designated premises supervisor is named. It is of some concern that in the case of a personal licence change application, rather than notification, to vary the licence is required. I believe that a simple notification system should suffice where there are changes of designated premises supervisors. If not, we shall face the possibility of one unduly bureaucratic process being replaced by yet another.
The Co-op and the BRC support the view that there should be a two-tier approach to personal licencesone for off-trade, which will include retailers, and another for on-trade. As currently drafted, the Bill proposes that all those who want to apply for a personal licence must take a single qualification covering all aspects of the supply of alcohol. That would mean that retailers of all shapes and sizes, including supermarket managers and those who run corner shops, would be required to study and pass an examination that would include questions about the sale and control of alcohol in pubs and clubs, where there are very different problems and issues. I understand that the BRC made a suggestion to the Government that they would be willing to assist in a study to try to work out what may be called the curriculum or the basis for qualification. I hope that we may hear something about that.
I am not at all certain about 24-hour opening. I stood here and died in the ditch defending Sunday trading. I was very much against it. Nothing has since happened to make me change my mind. I believed that it was the start of a slippery slope. Therefore, I am not as libertarian as others may be in saying that there should be no restriction. That is up to the individual. I believe that there must be a regime, and I certainly
I turn to the question of garage forecourts. The Bill prohibits the sale of alcohol from garage forecourts. That represents a tightening of the current system. However, at a time when drink driving continues to be an all too often fatal problem, the removal of booze from petrol stations and garages is to be welcomed, and I believe that the Minister should take that on board.
I want to concentrate on one aspect of the Billlive music. I should declare three interests: first, as a semi-professional musician; secondly, as a member of the Musicians Union for over 30 years; and, thirdly, as co-chairman of the parliamentary jazz appreciation group, which had a meeting this evening. I apologise for the fact that I had to leave the Chamber between six and seven o'clock to chair the AGM, at which the Bill was much discussed.
The current law permits up to two musicians to perform without the need for a public entertainment licence. With the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, and other members of the parliamentary group, I have for many years campaigned for the abolition of the "two in a bar" rule. On 25th February 1988, Douglas Hogg wrote to me from the Home Office, as follows:
The issue of entertainment in licensed premises has never been resolved. Despite countless meetings with Ministers from both political parties and despite promises that the situation would be changed at the earliest opportunity, the "two in a bar" rule has remained. It was obvious that two, three or four musicians playing acoustically or with minimal amplification could never make as much noise as the massive discotheques and sound systems. Those of us who have tried over many years to promote jazz and British jazz musicians were assured that the situation would be rectified. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Jazz Appreciation has consistently lobbied Ministers and been promised changes that will encourage musicians. Of course I understand that noise nuisance is dependent on the amplification, but most jazz played in pubs and clubs is not so reliant on high-powered electronics.
In June 1997, under the new Labour administration, the culture Minister promised change and the earliest opportunity to allow small groups of musicians to play in pubs and restaurantsoften, the only places that young musicians can find an audience.
We have many of the finest musicians in the world and we must help young professionals to gain experience of playing to an audience. As I see it, the present Bill effectively changes "two in a bar" to "none in a bar". Unless pubs, clubs and restaurants have a public entertainment licence, no live music of any kind will be permitted. The "two in a bar" rule has been excluded from the list of permitted "successor rights", which can be included when converting existing licences. I do hope that the Government can reverse this decision; otherwise there will be no piano players, no singers, no guitaristsnothing; not even the string quartet mentioned by the noble Baroness.
Electronic and broadcast entertainment, such as football, rugby matches, musical channels attached to powerful sound systems, which can attract significant, boisterous crowds and cause noise nuisance, is exempt. I have watched rugby matches in my local pub on many occasions. There is noise; there was much noise
I shall finish with a few questions. I listened to the opening remarks of the noble Baroness with interest. Did she say that an entertainment licence is automatically combined with a liquor licence? Who will decide on the cost and how will that cost be determined? Will pubs, restaurants and clubs have to make a "one-off" application with their licence in case they should ever use live music? Will all licensed premises in England and Wales lose the exemption that allows them to provide one or two musicians? Will those premises, currently providing one or two musicians using the old performer exemption, need to apply for licensing permission if they wish to continue with that limited amount of live music?
Will professional live music in hospitals, prisons, care homes, schools and churches be illegal unless licensed? If a professional music teacher organises a concert by pupils for the benefit of parents and friends, will that be licensable entertainment? I am sure that the Minister saw the article in The Times on Saturday, which reported that thousands of parish churches and places of worship would have to pay for licences for concerts to be held on their premises. Is that correct?
The Musicians Union accepts that premises whose main business is providing music may need the additional controls that licensing provides. Licensing justices already impose noise-limiting measures and safe capacities as a condition of the grant of a liquor licence.
I remind the Government that the Noise Abatement Society has shown that more than 80 per cent of noise complaints about pubs and restaurants are caused by people entering and leaving the premises. Have the Government conducted any research into the noise implications of licensing reform for residents in the vicinity of licensed premises?
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I should declare an interest as the chairman of a small hotel company in Suffolk, which needs to obtain all of the licences under the status quo. I should also inform the House that in my early career I spent much time in magistrates' courts dealing with licences and even sitting as clerk to the justices.
I shall open with a couple of general of remarks. First, it seems to me to be counter-intuitive to hold the view, as the Government do, that by allowing any number of licensing outletsthat is what the new regime will doand 24-hour drinking, which the new regime will encourage, one is somehow improving the self-defeating and self-damaging drinking culture, about which we spend a great deal of time in this House complaining.
Secondly, the "one size fits all" policy that is implicit in the Bill and the Framework for Guidance, which we have already been sent, must, as other noble Lords have observed, surely be self-defeating. Moreover, it flies directly in the face of one of the four aims of the White Paper, which are set out in the Explanatory Notes. The fourth aim is,
The problem is that the formulation of words, "must have regard to", is well known and well worn in our legislation. It will place on the licensing authorities the obligation to follow the guidance unless there is an extremely cogent and clear reason to the contrary that does not go against either the guidance or the framework of the Act. If anyone is displeased by the decision of a licensing authorityfor example, a brewer whose licensing authority says, "Well, we'll give you a licence but not beyond 12 o'clock"he can rush straight off to the High Court for a judicial review, and he will probably get it. That is the problem. In this context, guidance really means "requirement".
Therefore, we should forget any notion that the licensing authority will have any real control over the people who obtain licences. The guidance makes it clear that the vast majority should be accepted automatically. Indeed, the only issues that can be taken into accounta point already made by my noble colleaguesare previous convictions. The "fit and proper person" test, which allows other issues to be taken into accountapplicants may be notorious in their locality and may be any type of unconvicted criminalcannot be used.
I believe that all that adds up to a constitutionally obnoxious set of arrangements. It is the most dirigiste framework for legislation on such an important and nation-wide set of issues of which I am aware. It leaves the Secretary of State wholly unaccountable in law and only accountable in a political way. We say that that is not good enough and many noble Lords have said the same.
I turn to the point that I raised earlier concerning the solace, one might say, of the prevention of "public nuisance". It appears that such a measure would prevent some anti-social activities. For example, in my native county of Suffolk a few village pubs may remain open. Most will not want to stay open into the small hours but some of them will make a good trade by doing just that. Young people love whizzing around the countryside in cars late at night. If those pubs stay open until three or four in the morning, that could well give rise to considerable noise disturbance. As people get in their cars and drive away, they will not be drunk or disorderly but they will destroy the small-hours peace so valued by country and, indeed, town dwellers.
Public nuisance is confined to such matters as the carrying on of an offensive trade, holding an acid house party, keeping a disorderly house and throwing fireworks in the street. None of those is remotely close to the type of issue about which we are concerned and which we are discussing this evening. Therefore, that is no solace. Whatever else we do, we must extend the meaning of public nuisance to fit the needs of this Bill and the public at large.
In closing, I want to touch briefly on the points raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. All the small activities carried on by churches and community organisations will be subject to licensing. Perhaps I may illustrate that with a concrete example. Every year in my garden in Sudbury, I hold the St Gregory's Church fete. Of course, no licence is required at present but, in the future, we shall probably have to obtain four: one for the Punch and Judy show; one for the folk group; one for the country dancingthe noble Lord is looking astonishedone for the barrel organ and one for the raffle. "Rubbish", he says, but he will eat his words. Why the raffle? Because the Bill itself states that to be so. Clause 172 exempts certain raffles but not one that has a money prizewe usually give a prize of £10, so that will not be exemptand not a raffle where prizes consist of alcohol. Under Clause 172, even a bottle of booze will prevent the raffle being an exempt raffle, and then one enters the whole paper chase and expense of the Bill.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I welcome the provisions in the Bill to allow the extension of licensing hours to pubs, bars and night clubs under the control of local authorities. I have read plenty of evidence that that will help to reduce the violence on our streets that often occurs when the pubs close. But, crucially, I believe that that is only a small part of what the Government need to do in order to tackle the link between alcohol and violent crime.
If the Government are genuine about their objective of being "tough on the causes of crime", other measures should be seriously considered. The enormous amount of crime committed under the influence of alcohol makes excessive drinking a very important and expensive problem for our societyexpensive in terms of cash and expensive in terms of people's health and quality of life. Of particular concern to me is the amount of domestic violence
It is hoped that the Bill will reduce the binge-drinking culture that leads to trouble. It may reduce the binge drinking, but I do not believe that it will change the culture. In some contexts, such as Mardi Gras, for example, binge drinking is regarded as a beneficial pattern of behaviour which can contribute to social cohesiveness and bonding. If it happened once a year, perhaps we should not be quite so worried about it. Nowadays, "getting plastered" every weekend seems to be regarded as the cool thing to do. Of course, we know that there is a great pressure to conform among young people. No one likes to be seen to be different from their mates. However, in other countries, it is decidedly uncool to get "blind drunk".
In general, many researchers, such as Heath in 1988 and Gleiberman et al in 1993, have found that the greater the number of formal restrictions on drinkingfor example, licensing lawsthe more alcohol-related problems a society has. Such restrictive societies usually have an inconsistent attitude towards alcohol. In the UK, for example, on the one hand we restrict drinking below the age of 18, and on the other, most consider teenage drunkenness to be an inevitable "rite of passage".
By contrast, societies in which alcohol is integrated into daily life have relatively few of the problems we commonly associate with drinking, such as public brawling, suicide, absenteeism from work, accidents, domestic-violence and unprotected sex. The problem is not just how much or how long people drink, but what they do when they have been drinking. Here in Britain we have a particular problem with that.
The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, mentioned that he preferred the bars of Madrid to the bars of Ibiza. The difference between the two is that the bars of Madrid are full of Spaniards and the bars of Ibiza are full of Brits.
But will lifting some of the restrictions on licensing hours help? Cross-cultural research done by Galahad SMS Limited and others has shown that it will. Drinks are consumed quickly just before closing time and customers are then forced onto the streets in large groups at a peak of intoxication. In Europe, where opening hours can extend to 6 a.m., customers tend to leave as they wishin staggered numbers, so to speakcausing few problems for public transport or the police.
The problem has grown so much in Manchester that the city council has implemented a "City Centre Safe" initiative, mentioned by the Minister, to try to deal with some of it. It has provided more public transport when the pubs close to reduce brawls on taxi ranks. It has banned glasses and bottles on the streets and
I believe that one of the root causes is a misinterpretation of the minimum drinking age laws and a lack of good alcohol education. According to surveys by Galahad, the majority of parents wrongly believe that it is "against the law" to allow their under-16 year-old children to drink any alcohol at all. The law (or misinterpretation of it) has, in effect, taken away parental control and influence. In France, Spain, Greece, Italy, for example, a child is taught how to drink gradually and can practise safely within the family environment. As a result, there is no "forbidden-fruit effect" associated with alcohol, and such children rarely use alcohol as a form of rebellion.
Many of today's young people work hard and play hard. They live with their parents longer because of the cost of housing. They get married and have children later, so they have few responsibilities. They have money to spend and at the weekend they go out and drink vodka-based drinks one after the other. The industry makes them very attractive. There are coloured and flavoured vodkas and vodka shots, drunk down in one, are very fashionable.
But the drinks that concern me most, because I believe they lure very young teenagers into the habit of drinking too much alcohol, are the alcopops, which, at 5 per cent, contain more alcohol than a pint of normal strength beer. Despite the fact that the manufacturers claim that they are aimed at the 18 to 25 market, their sweet flavour, vibrant colours, rebellious sexy names and cartoon characters are clearly targeted at very young teenagers. Two-thirds of 11 to 12 year-olds are familiar with the names of the most common brands and 91 per cent of 15 to 16 year-olds know all about them. However, they are not aware of their alcoholic strength believing them to be less alcoholic than beer or lager.
The Minister said that one of the objectives of the Bill is to protect children from harm. In this respect it does not do so. Since we have now grasped the nettle about tobacco advertising, thanks to the Bill of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, I ask the Minister whether the Government have any plans to restrict this targeting of a very powerful and potentially harmful drug at the very young.
However, education will not stop people drinking. We know that abstinence-based education fails. So effective alcohol education for all ages must be developed on the basis that drinking is a natural, normal inclination, not rooted in immorality, and that the objective is safe drinking.
Finally, we must support and educate parents. Parents want to know how to teach their children how to drink sensibly. They need to understand that the law does not prevent them from doing this and that the home is the best place to learn good habits.
What else can the Government do? Since socialisation into drinking does not occur in the home in the same way as it does in southern European countries, the pubs and bars have replaced the family as the place to learn how to drink in a socially acceptable way. The server of alcohol, therefore, has a responsibility to set and enforce standards of behaviour. Unfortunately, most bar staff in the UK have little understanding of either their influence or their legal responsibilities.
Research has shown that informal controls on drinking, the social disapproval and censorship of certain behaviours, are far more effective than formal law, policy and regulation. What is needed is legislation that encourages social disapproval of extreme drunkenness in publicin other words, peer pressure. That could start with pub and bar staff. With proper training, servers could become educators. Continuing to serve a person who is obviously severely intoxicated should result in stronger penalties for the server and the establishment. Could therefore the guidelines to local authorities include the provision that licensed premises must train their staff properly before they can be considered for extended licensing hours?
Before closing I turn briefly to another measure in the Bill, which will have consequences that perhaps the Government did not intend. I hope not anyway. It is the provision that requires premises in which amateur music makers perform to hold an entertainment licence. I very much support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, on this matter. Many churches and church halls in which amateur choirs and orchestras perform will not bother getting a licence and we will have lost valuable venues. Others will get the licence and pass on the cost to the amateur music makers, who are already strapped for cash.
I have to declare an interest as vice-chairman of the Parliament choir. Thanks to generous sponsorship from BT we do not have the money worries of some amateur choirs, many of which put on concerts at a loss. Their very viability is threatened by the Bill. Given that they add enormously to the cultural richness of their communities, it would be very sad if a Bill such as this, with very laudable objectives, were to have such an effect. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me on that point.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, it is time that we had a licensing Bill, so I have to welcome the Bill to that extent. But I am very unhappy about the terms of the Bill and consider it a straight sell-out to the alcohol industry and not in the interests of the people as it purports to be.
After 'A Good Night Out!'The Hangover!, the final report of the Central Westminster Police/Community Consultative Group's Licensing Working Party, was published in July. I notice that although many representatives were present, the early representation of the breweries was not sustained and was regretted.
The first three key aims of the Government's proposals in the 2000 White Paper are to reduce crime and disorder, encourage tourism and reduce alcohol misuse. I shall not comment on the fourthencouraging self-sufficient rural communitiesas other noble Lords who know those areas have already done so. In no way will the Bill as drafted do anything to satisfy the first three aims. I hope that amendments will be passed in your Lordships' House to correct the situation. It is all very well to limit regulation. It is quite another thing to create a free-for-all. In contrast with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, experience in the City of Westminster has shown that increasing the drinking hours, as has been done in several cases, has only increased the problem. The peak time for criminal offences is 3 a.m., to which present licensing extends.
What in the Bill will ensure that residents are not further disadvantaged by 24-hour drinking? I found it interesting when the noble Viscount, Lord AstorI am sorry that he is not at present in the Chambersaid that he could not believe that anyone would run such places for 24 hours. He felt that it would not be financially viable for the industry. I hope that that will be the case, but there will certainly be some such establishments.
What is the position? Drinkers will not be turned out on the street at all. If they are drunk, will they just be left comatose in the bar or licensed premises? Exactly what will happen? The noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, referred to the fact that there will be an obligation on the barman not to serve any more alcohol to someone who is drunk, but there is nothing to say what should be done with a person who is drunkwhether to leave them on the floor or wherever.
What research has been carried out to show that tourists require longer drinking times? In central London plenty of premises are already able to provide drink until 3 a.m. Surely that is late enough. What will the Bill do to reduce current yobbish behaviour in the street at almost any time of the evening? The noble Lord, Lord Graham, said that he sees no problem with drinkers in the street, but drinkers in the street at various times of day are one of Westminster's major problems.
A similar system existed when the Greater London Council was the licensing authority for late-night music and dancing. As the locally elected representative, I was able to appear with, literally, a bus-load of residents who annually opposed the re-licensing of the Pink Elephant in Southgate. We never won. The vested interests were represented by a clever Queen's Counsel who always succeeded in advancing excuses or reasons why the licence should be renewed. It reached the point where the local Tube station had regularly to be closed because of disorder and many knivessome shaped from old saw bladeswere found discarded on the platform when the police arrived. All that eventually saved the local people was that the licensing magistrate eventually ruled that alcohol should no longer be sold on the premises. The club instantly became unprofitable and in due course was closed, but that was after years of trauma for local residents and near-death injury to an individual who was thrown through a plate-glass window.
Licensing magistrates have generally done a good job. Councils are not seeking to take over the job, but they would be willing and able to do so, especially if they could set their own guidelines. It would be wrong for the same guidelines to apply to every part of the country. Other noble Lords have made that point. It is also wrong that local councillors will not be able to represent their residents at a hearingmy noble friend Lady Hanham made that point. In my GLC days I, as my residents' representative, was able to support them, but under the present guidelines councillors could not represent their constituents in a hearing.
In planning applications, councillors go to put the case representing their constituents' views. I have frequently sat as a member of the GLC's late-night licensing committee. The typical argument from an applicant was that we could not refuse a new licence because, until it had been tried, we had no way of knowing whether it would cause a nuisance. That argument always won. The following year, when it had been shown to cause a nuisance, as the residents had predicted, the committee was told that it would be unfair not to renew the licence as considerable money had been spent to meet the requirements of the first licence and improve the building to make it ready for use. The licence was then renewed for a further year. It will be most unsatisfactory if we end up in such a situation.
Local authorities should be able to establish policies in the same way as they do their local plan. It has been repeatedly mentioned that saturation should be taken into account as a factor. The Minister mentioned that residents may appeal. Residents may appeal, but have noble Lords read the conditions under which they may do so? What it would cost them is terrifying. They will be up against heavy vested interests. There must be some local discretion.
My noble friend Lady Buscombe mentioned that we will later have legislation covering gambling and bingo clubs. I have just returned from Australia, where I was a member of a parliamentary delegation. Poker machines in licensed premises have been found to be of such concern that Australia is now passing legislation to reduce their number on each premises. We must not find that everyone with licensed premises adds in a poker machine.
The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, mentioned tobacco warnings and discussed whether children should be allowed in. The point has often been made in Questions that there should be not only a tobacco warning but an alcohol warning on pretty well each bottle. We should consider people's health and how we are to deal with binge drinking. Alcohol misuse is much greater than drug misusecertainly in central London.
In the West End ward to which the noble Lord, Lord St John, referred, masses of businesses are closing as the whole area is turned over to licensed premises, clubs or sex shops. That cannot be goodcertainly for people living in the area, who find their environment changing dramatically. Local authorities must retain flexibility and control over the matter.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I have listened to at least a few sentences of every speech in the debate. I have come to the conclusion that people do not think that the existing licensing laws work. Therefore, we must applaud the fact that the Government are, at least, making an attempt to give us slightly more sane licensing laws.
I say that as somebody who has waited for such a Bill for about a decade. I first heard it mentioned when the Conservative Party was in power and have waited a long time to hear that somebody was going to deal with licensing hours that guarantee bouts of speed-drinking for everybody. I do not use the term "binge-drinking"; speed-drinking has taught us how to binge-drink. As one of my noble friends said to me, there is a Pavlov's dog syndrome with last orders at eleven o'clock. Everyone runs up and gets another one. If you are in a round, you get three or four lined up, with half an hour to drink themor is it 20 minutes? After those, it is off to the next place.
I still play the odd game of rugby, and I find myself talking to the world's supply of bouncers. They play alongside me and against me. Those young enough still to be doing the job confirmed what I remembered: that the time after the speed-drinking at last orders is when the trouble occurs. It happens in the queues for the clubs and, after that, the queues for taxis and fast food. Basically, a lot of young men who have consumed a lot of booze quicklythat is one of the real problemsand are full of unfulfilled sexual ambition start bumping into and threatening each other: "Hey, you're going to get trouble". I went to university in Scotland, and I remember the first time that I found myself in a pub there. As it got towards eleven o'clock,
When people go out, they do not go out at the start of opening hours. Generally, they have been out doing something on Saturday afternoon or whenever. They will go home, eat something, maybe watch the TV for an hour or so and change their clothes. By the time that they get out, there is a limited amount of time left, andthis is what we are dealing withwherever they go, last orders will always be looming up and, with that, that last round.
I give my full backing to the Government's plans to attack the problem. They probably do not need it, but they have it anyway. However, although I applaud the main aim of the Bill, I must say that the devil is in the detail. I do not think that the Government could have intended to put the kibosh on live music by single performers, if they intend to create a cafe society. There is a potential problem there which the Government must address if we are to create a more relaxed and culturally more acceptable atmosphere. I hope that it will be dealt with.