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Viscount Falkland: I speak to Amendments Nos. 69, 71 and 72, which stand in my name. They follow neatly Amendment No. 68 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. The largest amount of post to cross our desks in relation to this sophisticated and complex legislation has been concerned with this issue. A problem that is perceived may arise is the effect on amenities and on the lives of residents resulting from any increase in the use of premises licensed for the sale of alcohol and the provision of entertainment.
Amendments Nos. 68 and 69 introduce further licensing objectives. Their purpose is to ensure that any difficulty which may arise out of licensed premises or, indeed, a concentration of licensed premises in any location, should be taken into account when
Demographic trends demonstrate that our population is growing older and that more people seek quiet and uninterrupted enjoyment of leisure and home life. At the same time, life for young people is very lively. The Bill seeks to establish a balance. It is clear from our postbags that there is no difference between the aims of the Government in introducing the legislation, of which we broadly approve, and all those who are affectedlocal authorities, individuals or businesses.
At this stage, there is no intention to force a Division. Through the opaqueness of the legislationif I may put it that waywe understand the intentions of the Government, and we approve. But there is much that needs to be teased out and explained. It is complicated legislation. Unlike the noble Baroness who preceded me, I am not a lawyer. I expect to be followed with alacrity by my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury, who has helped draft the amendment, but I am advised that the term "public nuisance" is likely to be given a narrow meaning by the courts when applied to the legislation.
I am mindful of the comments of many lawyers on these Benchessome present and some notwho have said that clearly the legislation has been drafted by lawyers. As such we understand it; but it will be a lawyer's paradise when unscrambling some of the complexities which arise from it. I shall leave it to my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury to raise those matters.
Surely, from a layman's point of viewand I stress layman, for that is what I amthere should be proper explanation in the Bill of what will be objected to by residents and others should trouble occur. There needs to be a better explanation of what should be taken into account should complaints ensue. The ease with which those complaints can be made will be dealt with later. The noble Baroness specifically mentioned a case which I hope is unusual. My mother-in-law lives in a city quite near London in a semi-pedestrianised area that is surrounded by many pubs and places of entertainment and where, under the present regime, a great deal of trouble is caused to residents.
People may not know that for drinking to be extended to two o'clock there must be an entertainment licence and, often, food is provided. Generally, it is a completely different clientele from that which normally goes to pubs. This legislation improves the situation which exists at the moment. In a way, it is a problem created by the Government. Historically and culturally, pubs are the place where people choose to relax, drink alcoholsensibly, one hopesand meet friends. Because of the requirement that after a certain time it is necessary to obtain an extension to have drink and food, publicans have been forced to attract a totally different clientele, a broader
It is curious that in a pedestrian area where people leave places in the early hours of the morning, if their mood is good, they will sing. But sometimes they will shout to each other, and that wakes people up. That is bad enough, but it is not as bad as it might be because usually those people are on the move. When singing, they are on the move. Domestic squabblesin the broadest possible senseare a great problem. Those who have not had a good evening or who have fallen out with their partner will have a loud altercation in the street. An altercation in the street means that people stop now and again, possibly for a long period, to state their views. That is very difficult for residents, and it is a nuisance. Residents can shout or throw water from the windows. But that will not necessarily move noisy people and there will be some reaction. That is just one area of nuisance.
Members of the Committee can laugh; it is perhaps funny in the way I tell it. But in the middle of the night, to an old or sick person or where there is a baby to consider, that behaviour is difficult to bear. The police may intervene, although not necessarily. Kicking cans and bottles is a nuisance, as is people jumping into cars outside the pedestrian areas, banging doors and sounding horns to one another because shouting is not enough. That may not be general behaviour but only two or three people need to be involved to destroy the night of the whole community in that area.
Many Members of the Committee will know of motor vehicles which after a certain hour are turned by "certain" peopleI shall describe them no furtherinto mobile entertainment centres. The noise level is the loudest possible. Psychologists may say that perhaps they want to draw attention to themselves or to release tension, but it is murder for those who live in the vicinity, particularly the old and the sick.
I give these descriptions only because we need to discuss what is a nuisance and what is a disturbance to local people. The throwing about of traffic cones and dustbins is common and has gone on for ever. It is usually over quickly and need not be noisy. However, the other activities are noisy. Indeed, nowadays peopleyoung and oldare less considerate of their fellows than used to be the case. I refer to the way they bang doors shut and so forth. I see the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, shaking his head. He obviously believes that this is a new phenomenon
The Earl of Onslow: No, I do not. I believe that it is an old phenomenon.
Viscount Falkland: In any event, it is a disturbing phenomenon, which needs to be dealt with.
I will now resume my seat, having described what a layman sees as a variety of nuisances and disturbances which may not be covered by the Bill. I hope that the Government will be more precise and exact in dealing with the problems and that they will satisfy local people's concerns about what will happen when the Bill becomes law.
The Earl of Onslow: I have named after me a pub called "The Onslow Arms". Unfortunately, my father sold it for an extraordinarily small sum of money about 20 years ago. Therefore, I do not have an interest to declare. However, I visit the pub, and I have noticed that the clientele varies during the evening. The clientele at seven o'clock is different from that at nine, ten or eleven o'clock. Furthermore, there are different types of people in different types of pub. That point was well made by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland.
There is nothing new about people behaving badly because they have had too much to drink. I confess that on return to this country on a troop ship inwell, practically before Godwe used to get rather tight at dinner in the officers' mess. Every evening, we would walk around the deck in our mess dress and ceremonially bury over the side a British India Steam Navigation Company deckchair, thinking that we were terribly funny.
People in youth have behaved like that for ever. That is why I was disagreeing with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. I do not believe that the problem is new; it is one of privacy versus public interest and of individuals versus the general desirability. In fact, it is NIMBY versus the rest. It is an incredibly difficult problem to balance.
The problem should be addressed at the lowest possible level of decision-making. We no longer like local magistrates, which is a pity, so we are giving the decision to licensing authorities. They can weigh up the balances between them. I disagree with the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lady Buscombe and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, not because I disagree with their aims but because I believe it impossible accurately to define this animal.
The Army Act contains a wonderful clause which relates to,
I suggest that instead of giving an increasingly detailed descriptionthe more detailed the description, the more restrictive it becomesthere should be a clause on,
I personally take a view opposite to that of my noble friendsI use the word "personally", not necessarily politically in that context because I believe that it is the way we should go.
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