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Baroness Harris of Richmond: I am most grateful to the Minister for that response. I shall look very carefully at his comments on the appeal body which will certainly require a little study. Nevertheless, I feel that this is an important provision to include in the Bill and I ask the Government to reconsider doing so. As my noble friend Lord Tope suggested, the provision would remind local authorities of their duties under the Act. I may wish to return to the issue at a later stage, but meanwhile I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 90 not moved.]

Clause 4 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 91 not moved.]

Clause 177 [Guidance]:

Baroness Harris of Richmond moved Amendment No. 91A:

The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Redesdale, I shall be mercifully brief. In view of the significant role of the police in enforcing the Bill's provisions, we believe that the guidance should apply also to the police, and that it should be so stated in the Bill.

I speak also to Amendment No. 103 which is consequential on the amendment to subsection (3) of Clause 4 that was spoken to earlier, the effect of which is to make the local licensing statement the only policy statement taken into account by the local licensing authority in exercising its licensing functions. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for the concise manner in which she spoke to the amendments in the group we are discussing.

I recognise the concerns about the guidance, but we have already discussed that in some detail. The framework guidance has been made available. I have

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put on record that consultation on the detail of the guidance is under way and I have explained that we shall bring the draft guidance forward at some point during the Bill's stages in this House.

I have explained when speaking to previous amendments related to these, as has my noble friend Lord McIntosh, that the guidance to licensing authorities is intended as a functional and user friendly best practice guide, highlighting areas the Secretary of State thinks licensing authorities should have regard to in exercising their licensing functions. This would include determining licensing policy and publishing statements of licensing policy. The Government therefore believe that Amendment No. 103 is unnecessary.

The licensing policy is certainly important as it will let everyone know how the licensing authority will go about exercising its functions. But it will already have to have regard to the guidance without this amendment.

Turning to Amendment No. 91A, which would require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the police, I should remind the Committee at the outset—I am sure that the noble Baroness, who knows a great deal about these matters, is aware of this—that the police are operationally independent. This is an important constitutional position that the Government wish to preserve. The police are under no obligation to have regard to or take into account guidance of any kind. There would be little point in requiring the Secretary of State to issue guidance to them.

That said, the Government can and often do work with the police and sometimes other stakeholders to produce consensual guidance on the exercise of their powers. A good example is the guidance that was published to coincide with the police's new powers, which came into effect in December 2001, to close down licensed premises on the spot. The Government and the police worked together to produce a document that many forces found useful and valuable. I wish to say, though, that the preamble to that guidance made the operational independence of the police absolutely clear.

I again emphasise that the Bill, and the guidance, has been and is being developed in consultation with a whole range of stakeholders, including the police. We expect to work with the police on the operation of the new licensing system, and the guidance issued will be available to them if they wish to follow it. However, it would be wholly inappropriate to require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to them. I therefore hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: I am most grateful for that response. In the light of the noble Baroness's reassurances and the further guidance that will be issued before the Bill completes its passage through this House, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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1.45 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 92:

    Page 98, line 10, at end insert—

"( ) Before issuing or revising any guidance the Secretary of State must consult—
(a) all local authorities which are to become, but have not yet become, a licensing authority,
(b) all licensing authorities, and
(c) such other persons as he thinks fit."

The noble Lord said: I hope that I shall speak as concisely as the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond.

In the Bill as drafted the Secretary of State's guidance assumes considerable importance, impinging as it does upon the determination of each individual licence application as well as upon general policy matters. In those circumstances the guidance should be the subject of prior consultation before it is issued, just as a licensing authority rightly must consult widely before determining its policy for each three-year period.

Of course I acknowledge that there is an advisory group comprising representatives of the 25 organisations listed on the front page of the framework for guidance to be issued under Clause 177 and that that list of 25 organisations includes the LGA. But that is a far cry from the local authorities at large, which are being given such important responsibilities under this Bill, being consulted to bring to the department's notice the kind of local circumstances which militate against the doctrine of "one size fits all". I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This amendment is partly unnecessary and partly undesirable. That completes the coverage of the amendment! It is unnecessary in that it refers to the issuing and the revision of the guidance. As regards the issuing of the guidance, assurances have already been given that there will be widespread consultation. As the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, reminded the Committee, there was already widespread consultation on the preparation of the framework document. We are now working on the draft document itself. We have given undertakings about the availability of the draft guidance. The work will have to be speeded up but, clearly, the draft guidance is a consultative document. Consultation will take place with local authority associations and individual local authorities will be free to make representations. Certainly, we would expect Westminster to make representations about its particular circumstances. Consultation will take place with the police and fire authorities.

The amendment states:

    "Before issuing or revising any guidance".

Guidance is supposed to constitute a flexible document. It is supposed to be capable of revision as and when necessary without any unnecessary formality. If we had to consult every single local authority, including those which have not yet become licensing authorities, and

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other persons, that would simply slow down the process of revision. It would ensure that we did not have an up to date and effective schedule of guidance.

Lord Avebury: The Government have been rather reluctant to meet Councillor Simon Milton who gave the presentation which has been mentioned frequently in the course of our proceedings. I thought that he painted a convincing picture of the problems facing the London Borough of Westminster. Does the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, agree that if Simon Milton, among others, wishes to make representations in the course of the formulation of the guidance, he should be given a proper hearing?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Of course.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: It constitutes an Exocet to have one's amendment described as both unnecessary and undesirable. I remind the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, of the discussion we had last night in the context of Clause 177 in which he gave me an assurance that the wording that we have already accepted—that is, "have regard to" the guidance issued under Clause 177—would apply to the original licensing policy that a local authority set. Although it would be required to have regard to any revised or subsequent guidance that was given, it could rest on its original position if it chose to do so. Given the significance that the noble Lord placed on the revised guidance last night, I felt that the amendment was not wholly unnecessary or undesirable, although it had obviously already been tabled. However, the Minister has given a reassuring response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 177 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Statement of licensing policy]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 93:

    Page 3, line 18, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I should make it clear that I shall not be moving Amendments Nos. 95, 99, 107 and 110. In each of those amendments, my intended wording of "licensing period" has, for some reason, become "licensing policy", which would not add clarity to the Bill. I apologise for that inadvertent error. As those amendments were designed to accompany Amendment No. 100, which is being debated separately, I shall return at the next stage with amendments to insert "licensing period" in place of "three year period".

Why do I intend to do that, and why do I suggest in Amendment No. 93, which is a probing amendment, that the duty of determination of licensing policy every three years might be removed? I am simply asking the Government to justify to the Committee why there should be any prescription from the centre as to the duration of a licensing policy, and why a licensing authority should be asked to publish a licensing statement after very extensive consultation, as required every three years under subsection (5).

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Given that subsection (4) allows a licensing authority the power to revise its policy at any time, there seems no reason to impose a further artificial exercise every three years. What if a licensing policy is operating satisfactorily to everyone's content after the end of a three-year period? Is it really essential for an authority in each three-year period to go through the extensive exercise of a new determination?

The Government keep claiming that this is a deregulating measure. Is the proposal not simply a recipe for unnecessary paper shuffling every three years, which will involve much time and many people who might have better things to do? I should like to understand the reasons for what seems to me an unnecessary piece of mechanistic bureaucracy, and wonder whether Ministers would be prepared to think again on that point. I beg to move.

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