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The Bill seeks to streamline the current variety of licences under one licensing system. The task is large and the attempt is admirable. I concede the need for some of the detail of the functions of licensing committees to be dealt with in secondary legislation. We have limited time on the Floor of your Lordships' House and in the other place, which prevents us from having a debate on every function, definition and specification. However, a glance at the framework guidancewhich was issued after much delayhas left many in this place, and many in local authorities, the police and industry, fearful of the Government's motives. The day-to-day functioning of the licensing committees is apparently to be left to the whim of the Secretary of State, subject to revision at whatever time he or she may think necessary. I doubt whether I am aloneI am sure that I am notin questioning the democratic nature of a system in which such important matters are not only not in the Bill but not even subject to delegated legislation. That point has been made throughout our debate this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. We find ourselves in a position in which we are trying to debate and scrutinise legislation that provides barely half of the picture.
Such regulations would be subject to scrutiny by your Lordships' House and would not be able to be revised without approval of this House and the other place. It is imperative that such an alteration is made. For those reasons, I express my intention to oppose the Question whether Clause 177 stand part of the Bill. I propose our Amendment No. 91 as a viable alternative.
The Government have promised the publication of the guidance by the spring, which may be as late as May. We have recently been told that it will be published in the new year. Which part of the new year? We fear that it will appear when the Bill has left your Lordships' House and passed to the other place. That simply is not good enough.
Although the hour is late, I could spend an enormous length of time on this amendment, and I know that other Members of the Committee want to contribute to this debate. However, the guidance notes do not deal with many issues. Our postbags are full of letters from interested parties concerned about the Bill's details. We strongly believe that much more could be in the Bill.
A classic example is that of off-trade, which seeks clarity about whether all or part of a premises can remain open at the same time in future. One part of the guidance notes says that that is the case; but what if the guidance notes change? A supermarket may find itself able in the first instance to have its alcohol section open 24 hours a day in future, along with the rest of the supermarket, but three years down the road that may change. That leaves an enormous amount of uncertainty. Is that fair on the industry, on local authorities and on all interested parties, which really means all of us?
Lord Redesdale: The purpose of putting my name to Amendment No. 84 was to pave the way for Amendment No. 91, which we support wholeheartedly. This seems to be another occasion on which the Government have been given time to clarify the basis under which a Bill will operate as set out in the framework; but that guidance turns up extremely late. Indeed, we are given an unspecified time of the New Year or the spring when the actual document will be in front of us. That does not seem acceptable.
Given that that is the case, we have resorted to using a sledgehammer on the nut of this amendment. To continue that analogy, it is a nut that we are quite prepared to smash open because without it we will be in breach of our very purpose of scrutinising the Bill. We are putting Bills before Parliament about which we have very little understanding of how they will work in practice.
The Minister will say that all the aspects that are in the framework document are going to be fleshed out to everyone's satisfaction. However, the difference between the White Paper and the Bill is quite substantial. What is being proposed as being in the guidance document and what is actually in it could be quite dramatically different.
Therefore, we support the amendment. I very much hope that the Minister can give not just an indication of when the guidance document will be published, but an actual date. If she cannot do so, I think that we shall have to return to this amendment. I should be surprised if we do not push the amendment at a later stage of the Bill because it goes to our fundamental concern that we will be allowing a Bill to pass through Parliament which we have not scrutinised properly.
Lord Cobbold: I speak in respect of Clause 177 on guidance. I have read the Framework for GuidanceI am not sure whether it was the right oneto be issued under this clause. I had hoped for clarification on an issue which has not so far been raised in the debate, but unfortunately I have been disappointed.
The whole focus of the Bill and of the debate so far has been the question of transferring responsibility for the licensing of pubs and clubs from magistrates to local authorities and on the implications of the 24-hour opening of pubs and clubs.
My concern is that neither the Bill nor the Framework for Guidance deal adequately with the granting of entertainment and music and dancing licences. These licences are currently governed by Section 1 and Schedule 1 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. This section and schedule are to be specifically repealed under Schedule 7page 150of the Bill.
I declare an interest in that I am personally involved in the ownership and management of Knebworth Park in Hertfordshire. We have a music and dancing licence from the local authority for up to 15,000 people. This licence is renewable annually and covers a variety of open-air events and entertainment that take place in the park throughout the year. On occasions, we also play host to very large open-air rock concerts. Our licence capacity for those events is 125,000. In those cases we apply to the local authority for an extension of the licence to cover the specific event or events.
We work very closely with the licensing authority on such events, usually for many months in advance. I have discussed the Bill with our licensing officer. Neither of us can see how these situations would be covered by the Bill as it stands. I may say in passing that our local licensing authority does not foresee enormous problems in taking on the licensing of pubs and clubs.
I presume that our annual music and dancing licence will become a premises licence. But as the Bill stands, it is clear that one-off, large, open-air concerts would not be covered by the provisions for "permitted temporary activities" in Part 5 of the Bill, which are restricted to the arbitrary maximum of 500 people.
I tabled one or two clarifying amendments for the later stages of our debate. At this stage I merely wish to point out the absence of guidance other than a helpful letter I received from the Minister. I suggest to the Government that they need to put the situation right and perhaps to reconsider incorporating the relevant sections of the 1982 Act into the Bill, in particular Schedule 1, paragraphs 3 and 4.
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