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Lord Monson: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. Perhaps I should point out to my noble friend Lord Cobbold and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that if you devolve decision making in this matter down to local authority level as they urgeand with which I do not disagreeyou will get a much more restrictive policy in place than otherwise would be the case. This is for the simple reason that there are far more people on the electoral rolls who want a good night's sleep than people who want to drink in clubs and pubs until two or three o'clock in the morning. I do not disagree with such restrictions, but it is worth bearing in mind.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My name appears on Amendment No. 69 below that of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland; on Amendment No. 72 likewise; and Amendment No. 445 stands in my name alone. I shall not detain the Committee longwe have had a decent debate alreadybut my brevity should not be interpreted as a lack of vehemence on the subject. I do not have any emotional capital tied up in the particular wordings of the various amendments in front of the Committee, but I do wish to comment briefly on all three which stand in my name.
In regard to Amendment No. 69, I can well remember when I was the Member of Parliament for the Cities of London and Westminster the representations made to me by the West End theatres about the effect on the amenities of theatre-goers of the surrounding circumstances throughout the West End. Of course they were particularly pre-occupied with the issue of drugs, but that is covered under Clause 4(2)(a). On the other hand, the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clark, of littering and fouling, both have a detrimental effect on theatre-goers and reduce the attractiveness of the theatre to them. If my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber was in his place, I am certain that he would say much more to the same effect.
As to Amendment No. 72, there is no way in which I can improve on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. Had I spoken before him rather than after, I would have likewise quoted the Westminster remarks, notably in regard to the narrow definition that the courts put on public nuisance in the Environment Protection Act 1990 and the hazard that we will get into if that becomes the broad portmanteau phrase in this Bill.
Amendment No. 445 is simply a belt and braces addition to the definitions. As I said, I have no emotional capital tied up in the particular definition of "public nuisance" recorded, but it is no bad thing that "public nuisance" should be defined at that point in the Bill.
Lord Lea of Crondall: I add one marker to Amendment No. 71 in relation to its reference to "working amenity". The Bill has a long way to go but, as time goes on, the definition of "working amenity" will have to include reference to the effect on people working in the industry of the much longer hours that everyone will have to work. The example has been given of bar staff trying to get home at two o'clock in the morning and young women on their own not being able to find transport and so on. It is not clear whether some of these points can be picked up within the framework of the legislation, but certainly the detriment to the community of commotion outside pubs and so on involves staff working in the pubs. Will the Minister give some thought as to whether, in broad terms, the magistrates or the licensing authorities will have enough powers? The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said that they are unable easily to enforce their powers at the moment, but will they have enough powers to deal with the kind of matters which will arise as a consequence of the radical change in our social behaviour caused by the so-called 24-hour culture?
Lord Tope: When I declared my interests I said that I have represented a town centre area on a London borough council for nearly 30 years. In fact, within the ward I represent there are more licensed premises than in the whole of the remainder of that London borough put together. I could repeat, and probably exaggerate, the many horror stories that we have heard in the debate. All I will say is that I strongly recommend my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury not to go into a Sutton town centre pub on a Friday night in his pyjamas. It would certainly do nothing for public peace and quiet.
We have all described problems of public nuisance and disorder, but these occur not only in the immediate vicinity of licensed premises. In a sense, if you live, or choose to live, very close to a licensed premises, to some extent you accept that that is a consequence of living there. The problem, certainly from my experience in urban areas, comes at dispersal time for people who live not in the immediate vicinity of licensed premises but in the surrounding area. The Government should consider the surrounding area rather than the immediate vicinity because residents who live some distance from licensed premises suffer greatest nuisance from the kind of noise and anti-social behaviour that has been described, or even from quite normal behaviour that would not be noticed at seven or eight o'clock in the evening but which is
I have very considerable sympathy for all the concerns expressed during the debate. However, in addition, I almost have concerns for the interests of the industry itself. That is why I prefer Amendment No. 71, the only amendment that refers to the need for balance, which I accept is important. I do not believe that any of us in this debate are arguing for local residents to have a right of veto over a licence application. I understand very well the industry's concerns about what the Minister in her letter to me described as over-zealous local authorities or licensing authorities.
From long experience, I say to the Government that local authorities are also planning authorities and that most, if not all, local councillors have very considerable experience of dealing with difficult, locally contentious planning applications, which, for good planning reasons, have to be granted despite the often very vociferous objections from the local residents whom they are elected to represent. That kind of situation is not unknown, I suggest, to any local councillor.
Most local authorities make sensible planning decisions most of the time. One reason for that is that they know that if they go with the wishes of the residents against planning guidance, they will face appeals. They know that they will have to defend their planning decisions on appealoften an expensive businessand that if they turn down planning consent on frivolous grounds, costs may be awarded against them. That places a very considerable inhibition on local councillors who have to deal with vociferous objections from residents. I suggest that, though the planning environment is not exactly the same as the licensing environment, the considerations affecting both will be very similar.
I say to the industry and the Government that, though I understand very well the concerns about over-zealous licensing authoritiesor, perhaps put more politely, local councillors who pay proper and close regard to the wishes of the people who have elected themthey will in practice be much less likely to arise because of the checks and balances that are in place.
In her letter to me, which I received today, the Minister quite rightly referred to the points that we have made about the balances in the Bill and said that she would be prepared to consider them and, if necessary, make them more explicit. In the light of today's debate, I hope that the Minister will feel able to do that. I do not believe that any of the amendments tabled today are likely to be pressed. However, we shall all look forward to the Government saying on Report that they have listened to our points, that they are able to make the safeguards more explicit, and that, from the point of view of all Members of the Committee who have spoken, they can tilt the balance a little more in favour of local residents than appears to be the case on the face of the Bill at present.
Lord Redesdale: I apologise for intervening. I have put my name to two amendments and I have only one short question to ask. Many Members of the Committee have described numerous potential nuisance situations that take place outside licensed premises. In that respect, will the Minister indicate how far local authorities will be guided to take into account the area to be licensed?
I ask that question particularly because we are discussing the licensing objectives, which also relate to other parts of the Bill. In the case of a temporary licence, who would be responsible for ensuring that the criteria are met? For example, if carol singing takes place in a shop, is the shop owner the licensee? If it takes place in a public park, is the local authority the licensee? It seems to me that if the local authority granted itself a licence and also tried to fulfil those objectives, there would be a conflict of interests. Perhaps I have totally misunderstood that section of the Bill. However, I should be grateful for the Minister's answer.
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