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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: That would clearly cause a great deal of trouble. Efforts will have to be made to ensure that local authorities do not do that in an extravagant way. I am sure that is possible.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I should like to raise the matter of costs. The noble Lord said that they would be fully recoverable. But is enforcement against a person, if it is required, also covered? And what is the position if the person goes bankrupt?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I assume that a bankrupt would not be given a licence. I assume that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, means if a person subsequently became bankrupt. However, the fees are payable up-front.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: If there is any problem with the personal licence there will be enforcement costs. I am asking whether or not they are included in the recoverable costs. If so, who would they be recovered from if the individual had gone bankrupt afterwards?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I shall have to think about that. It is not immediately clear to me what "enforcement" costs are. The costs are for running a system to provide personal licences and for providing a hearing, when necessary, when a personal licence is applied for. Subsequent additions to the database, if made by the applicant who is notifying a subsequent conviction, for instance, will not involve significant additional costs. If the additions are made by the police it will not involve significant additional costs. If somebody is acting as though they had a licence when they do not, that will be a matter for law enforcement and not a matter for full cost recovery.

The Earl of Onslow: The noble Lord did not answer the extraordinarily interesting question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, which was this. If the cost of granting a licence by Muddlecombe-under-Slosh is

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10—that would be recovered by Muddlecombe-under-Slosh Borough Council—and Burton-under-the-Widgewater Borough Council charges 35, how will that be balanced out? Who will be responsible for it and how will it work? The noble Lord failed to answer that question. Will he now please answer it?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Forgive me for saying so but that is a relatively trivial question. Of course the costs of any service provided by a local authority can vary from one authority to another, for good reason and bad. Some variation in the charges made under cost recovery is entirely permissible. If there are extreme cases—in other words, if Muddlecombe-under-Slosh was charging 20 times what the neighbouring authority was charging—guidance would have to be issued.

In any case, let me make it clear that the cost recovery scheme does not apply only to personal licences. The administration of the licensing system covers the administration, inspection and enforcement of both personal and premises licences. It will not actually be possible to distinguish between the costs of premises and personal licences because the administration will be co-ordinated.

The Earl of Onslow: Could not the noble Lord simply have said that charges will vary from authority to authority because that is the way the system is set up. That is the correct answer to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, which very correctly the noble Lord has now given me.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Does the Minister see any parallel here with local authority search charges where in fact all local authorities are required to charge the same though the costs between different authorities are significantly different?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: That is a useful parallel. I have already said that this is not a significant issue. There may be differences because of different circumstances. An administration set up for 10 licences a year will cost more per head than an administration set up for 10,000 licences a year. That is the nature of the beast.

Lord Redesdale: I apologise to the Minister but this will have a bearing on later stages of the Bill. We believed that the purpose of the Bill was to even out the licensing fees so that they were affordable throughout the country and the situation with regard to public entertainment licences was not reinstituted through this new authority. The Minister is now saying that the cost of personal and premises licences, through cost recovery—which is what geared up the cost of entertainment licences so massively in some London boroughs—could vary. What method is there for capping such variation?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There may be some variation. If the variation is unacceptable the Secretary of State will have to deal with it. At present there is no

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reason for concern. The Secretary of State will need to set a range of acceptable fees which will not give exact cost recovery but close enough to cost recovery to relieve the fear expressed when the amendment was moved; that is, that it would put a huge burden on the ratepayer.

The fees would be set in bands by the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State could include a geographical element. The Secretary of State could say, for example, that central London borough licences would be different from those in rural areas or that licences in the South East could be different from those in the North West. There are all sorts of possibilities.

The fears expressed were profound. I sought to show that they were unjustified. The small differences between the cost of one licence and that of another do not justify the extreme provisions that would be brought in by the amendments.

Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his response to the group of amendments. More than anything, it has been worthwhile to explore the issues. That is particularly so, given the desire of so many beyond your Lordships' House—the industry, the police and local authorities—to see some form of central authority to handle the administration of personal licences, which the noble Lord, Lord Tope, rightly described as more of a burden.

We believe that, as the Bill stands, the system will rely very much on the ability of different local authorities to keep records up to date, sometimes over a period of many years. There could be several issues that one might call "unsavoury" that attach to an individual in one part of the country that might not attach to his record in another part of the country. That is unsatisfactory, given the enormous responsibility that attaches to someone who has the advantage of a personal licence. Several good questions were raised about cost. The Minister says that that is not a significant issue, but, to those who have to pay, it is significant.

I am grateful to noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. We will think further, with care, and read in Hansard what was said. For now, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 67 not moved.]

3.45 p.m.

Clause 4 [General duties of licensing authorities]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 68:

    Page 3, line 10, at end insert—

"( ) the protection of the quality of life of communities;"

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 68, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 70 and 71.

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Amendments Nos. 68 and 70 would add a further licensing objective to those in Clause 4(2); namely,

    "the protection of the quality of life of communities".

I tabled Amendment No. 68, which is closely related to Amendment No. 70 on public nuisance, in the hope that the Minister would enlighten the Committee on the account that the Government think should be taken of the needs of local communities and their quality of life, when it comes to the exercise of local authorities' licensing functions under the Bill.

Members of the Committee who attended the briefing given by representatives of local authorities, which was chaired by my noble friend Lady Hanham, will have seen and heard the great impact that licensed premises can have on the quality of life of communities, not just in London but throughout the country. However, it is not made clear in the Bill that the needs of those communities will have to be taken into account by licensing authorities, when they exercise their functions. So that the Government's thinking can be made clear, I tabled this amendment and Amendment No. 70, which relates to the third of the licensing objectives:

    "the prevention of public nuisance".

It is a probing amendment, which seeks clarification from the Government of what they mean when they refer in subsection (2)(c) to,

    "the prevention of public nuisance".

When I first read the Bill, I found that to be one of the most intriguing pieces of the Government's drafting. As the Committee will be aware, public nuisance is a tort, under the civil law, and a criminal offence at common law. One example of public nuisance in the criminal context is the 1992 case of Ruffell, which is reported in the 13th volume of the Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing) at page 204. In that case, the offence of public nuisance was charged because the offender organised an acid house party in unsuitable premises that was attended by a large number of people. A road leading to the site was blocked by traffic; local residents were disturbed by noise throughout the night; and litter and excrement were deposited in adjoining woodlands.

Undoubtedly, that is the sort of unacceptable public nuisance that, one hopes, would not be associated with premises or individuals licensed under the Bill. However, the definition of public nuisance is very broad. In the case of The Attorney-General v. PYA Quarries Limited, reported in the official Law Reports 1957 (Queen's Bench Division) at page 169 of the second volume, Lord Justice Romer stated:

    "Any nuisance is public which materially affects the reasonable comfort and convenience of life of a class of Her Majesty's subjects. The sphere of the nuisance may be described generally as 'the neighbourhood', but the question whether the local community within that sphere comprises a sufficient number of persons to constitute a class of the public is a question of fact in every case.

    It is not necessary in my judgment to prove that every member of the class has been injuriously affected. It is sufficient to show that a representative cross-section of the class has been so affected for an injunction to issue".

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I hope that the Minister will enlighten the Committee on the sorts of activity that the Government envisage when they refer to "public nuisance". Do they intend the definition of public nuisance developed by the courts, which has applied in the same form for several hundred years, to apply in the context of the Bill? If they do, does Clause 4(2)(c) mean that licensing authorities will be required to take steps to prevent anything that,

    "affects the reasonable comfort and convenience of life"

of communities? That is what my amendment would also require.

It is not immediately clear from the Explanatory Notes prepared by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that the Government intend the definition developed by the courts to apply. Paragraph 38 of the Explanatory Notes states:

    "The third licensing objective, the prevention of public nuisance, will not extend to every activity which annoys another person but will cover behaviour which, when balanced against the public interest, is found to be unacceptable".

That does not go into the detail that the courts have done, when defining what is a public nuisance. In particular, it does not mention the kinds of issues of definition relating to communities and sections of the public that Lord Justice Romer did in the judgment that I quoted. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will clarify the situation and provide the Committee with a more complete version of the Government's position on Clause 4(2)(c) than her department could—I say that with respect—in the Explanatory Notes.

I turn briefly to Amendment No. 71, upon which, I know the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, will expand. The amendment proposes another option to describe more specifically the licensing objectives. There has been much concern about the vagueness of licensing objectives, as stated in the Bill, particularly, as I have said, as regards the third objective—the prevention of public nuisance.

The definition of public nuisance is, as I said, open to broad interpretation. The amendment would clarify the matter by stressing the need for balance between the interests of local communities and the leisure industry. It is an important balance, and we must strike it. I beg to move.

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