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The Earl of Onslow: I have been given a briefing from Westminster City Council on exactly that point about planning. It might be worth sharing one or two points with the Committee. Night-clubs come under the same D2 planning ratio as a cinema. A cinema can be turned into a night-club without a licence. Bars and pubs use class A3 as restaurants and coffee bars. It appears that the paper has answered the questions that I posed. In addition, it appears that the planning system could be used by changing the categories under planning regulations. If that were to be done, the Government's answer of planning control would have a great deal more validity. I apologise for asking the question previously. I am grateful to my noble friend

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Lady Buscombe for handing me that piece of paper, which does seem to be authoritative. I thought it would be worthwhile sharing a little of its information with Members of the Committee.

Lord Monson: I warmly support this group of amendments, in particular the last part of Amendment No. 87 which refers to the possibility of imposing a generalised closing time in one or more areas. By decreeing, as they do in the Bill, that everything to do with the sale and consumption of alcohol should be tightly regulated with one solitary exception—namely, closing hours, as the noble Baroness made clear on 17th December at col. 565 of the Official Report—the Government are being wholly inconsistent. If I wanted to go into my local Sainsbury's at 6 p.m. on a Sunday to buy a bottle of their excellent Manzanilla—now there's a plug—I cannot do so. The place will be closed because Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Safeway and all department stores, except the tiniest, have to close on or before 6 p.m. on Sunday. What is the reason for that? It is because all governments—this is agreed by both Government and Opposition—believe that residents and amenities should be protected from the noise which is inherent in large stores being open late on what is meant to be a day of rest. It is to protect the general amenities and people in residential areas in particular.

As the Bills stands it will be possible for people to buy alcoholic drinks in clubs and pubs all through Saturday and Sunday nights, and all through every other night as well. That is an anomaly. I should be grateful for an explanation.

Have the Government carried out research into what happens in other countries? They glibly assume that on the Continent everything is open 24 hours a day. As I said at Second Reading, that is absolute nonsense. Have the Government studied the laws which apply in various European countries? We already know that there are tighter restrictions in North America. I guess that in France, Germany, and the Benelux countries—Scandinavia, at any rate—there are quite strict laws about not being open late at night. I do not believe that places that sell alcohol are allowed to be open all night without special permission. It may be different in Mediterranean countries. However, I look forward with interest to the Government's comments.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: I want to speak in support of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. In addition, I want to support Amendment No. 111 on which the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, has just spoken. I want to emphasise the importance of having evidence-based legislation. Has the Minister seen the recent article written by Jim Sheridan, Labour MP for West Renfrewshire? The article refers to research undertaken by the Cranfield University School of Management into what has been occurring in Scotland—namely, the changes that have taken place since the liberalisation in licensing laws—where, contrary to common belief, it appears that drinking and binge drinking is now growing.

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Research has shown that after midnight public houses generate excessive competitive pressure. There is pricing downwards on the cost of alcohol and, consequently, people are drinking more and more. A whole range of people are complaining now about the consequences. There is more alcohol-related disorder in the streets. Has the Minister had an opportunity to look at the article? Is that type of evidence being taken into account?

12.30 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: Members of the Committee have been extremely eloquent on this subject, which was introduced by my noble friend Lady Buscombe. In rising at this stage, I want simply to fill in some of the details about which rhetorical questions have been asked by other noble Lords. I may be able to provide some information. The Westminster figure has already been quoted: 263 premises hold late-night licences. That is a 25 per cent increase since 1995 and, with the change in the licensing hours, the problem will be exacerbated.

The Minister made considerable play with the fall of 11 per cent in inner London licences during the past three years. However, between 1991 and 2001, the figures in Westminster have risen by 33 per cent for bars and pubs. Those are on-licence figures; they take no account of off-licences. Between 1992 and 2002 there has been a 185 per cent increase in entertainment licences in Westminster. I acknowledge that that is in part because the city council has a tradition of not refusing music and dance applications. However, it is an index of how the level of activity has increased throughout that period.

Much hinges on the 3 a.m. figure. There are more people in Leicester Square at three o'clock in the morning than at three o'clock in the afternoon. That has a deleterious effect. Criminals come into the West End stress area—Soho and Covent Garden—at three o'clock in the morning because it is easier to take money from intoxicated members of the public than it is from people who are sober. The crime level rises significantly at that time.

Street crime in Westminster rose by 31.7 per cent between 2001 and 2002. That is partly due to police being moved to anti-terrorism duty after September 11th. But it is still a significant figure. Forty per cent of the street crime in Westminster occurs in the stress area of Covent Garden and Soho. That is 4 per cent of the total area of Westminster. So one can see the astonishingly disproportionate effect of crime in that area.

The University of Westminster and a particular institute within that university published a significant study, which, I am sure, Members of the Committee will have read. It compared locations similar to the West End stress area—Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Temple Bar in Dublin, and Haekescher Marlt, Spandauer Vorstadt and Mitte District in Berlin. All of those areas are much smaller than the West End stress area of Soho and Covent Garden. I have remarked in other places that it would be enormously

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desirable if some of the pressure could be taken off the West End stress area by opening up similar activities in other parts of London. The South Bank and the City of London in my former constituency are natural places where that might occur.

Against that background of crime in the West End stress area, the policy of the police is to object to the granting of further licences in the designated stress area. They state:

    "In certain instances it may be that a street or sector is provided with liquor licence premises to such an extent that local services and/or residents are perceived to be at breaking point or saturated. It is our view that the area referred to as the Soho stress area falls within the specified criteria, therefore no further licence premises in this area can be contemplated".

I give that quotation because the Government take the view that the cumulative issue and that of saturation are not for this Bill and that they should be dealt with under planning. If the Minister comes back again and quotes the planning instance, I am inclined to follow my noble friend Lord Onslow in quoting the specific experience of Westminster in using planning for the purposes which the Minister is contemplating.

DAC Andrew Trotter told the Greater London Authority scrutiny committee of the impact of 24-hour licensing. He was Westminster's borough commander. He explained that if there was a rise in the number of licensed premises, there would be a commensurate rise in disorder and that resources had to be skewed to deal with that. All staggered hours opening does is to spread the troubles right through the night.

I have considerable sympathy with the views of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, in terms of noise throughout the night. The Minister, responding to previous amendments on amenity areas, said that it was what happened in the pubs that mattered and that what happened outside was not the responsibility of this Bill. The fact remains, as I said in relation to that amendment, that the Noise Abatement Society states that 80 per cent of the noise occurs as people enter a pub and leave it. I do not believe that the Government can merely wash their hands of the consequences of spreading the noise throughout the night. I speak as one who once had a flat above the south-west district sorting office. Alarms went off all night and four-letter words floated up. The one thing that, as a resident, you could predict was that there would be no logic to the moments when your sleep would be disturbed. That is the factor which the Minister in her earlier response took insufficient notice of.

Furthermore, in the context of Westminster, an enormous number of people come in during the day and are therefore not best pleased if the city shows signs of what happened the previous night. The easiest way of reflecting the statistic is to point out that, as the candidate for that constituency, in shaking the hand of someone on the street I had a one in 15 chance of shaking the hand of someone who had the right to vote for me. That indicates the number who come into the area.

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There is no point in prolonging my speech at this stage. If, however, the Minister comes back with the planning argument, I shall want to speak further on the issue. She has more than enough to answer in terms of what has already been said.

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