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Baroness Blackstone: I reassert what I said earlier: the Government wish to be deregulatory, but I think that the noble Lord's amendment goes a step too far.

It is vital that the responsible authorities—the ones that will make the system work—have the opportunity to feed in their expertise when licensing policy statements are being drawn up. That applies to the fire authority as much as to any other body. Indeed, with public safety in mind, one might even say more so.

Public safety is a key licensing objective. Licensing authorities have a duty to promote that in exercising their licensing functions. The fire authority has obvious expertise in that area. It should contribute that expertise. The policy could, after all, have a significant influence on licensing decisions.

No one has disagreed with the policy during the long and extensive consultation in the development of the Bill. I suspect that most ordinary members of the public would not thank us for excluding the fire authority from decisions that could affect their safety on licensed premises.

I do not believe that a requirement to consult the fire authority will impose any serious additional burdens on the licensing authority or on industry, beyond those that are necessary to protect public safety. We made clear in the framework guidance that blanket conditions—for example, capacity limits—are wholly inappropriate. One of the fundamental principles of the new system is that conditions attaching to premises licences will be tailored to the circumstances of the individual premises. I hope that, given what I have been able to say, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Avebury: Before the Minister sits down, can she say what kind of representations the fire authority

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could make in the formulation of the licensing policy? I am a little mystified as to what its contribution could be. It presumably is not able to propose that there should be a maximum number of establishments in a given area because of the risk that fire vehicles would not be able to access the fires which might occur within the area. For example, if one wanders around the area of Soho at night one will see that already emergency vehicles would find it totally impossible to get access to a serious fire within the area. I worry about that because it seems to me that if the fire authority has not been able to influence the licensing policy in the past, I cannot see how it can do so by making representations at the early stage of the formulation of policy under the Bill.

Baroness Blackstone: The clause requires licensing authorities to consult fire authorities in order to take into account what they suggest. The issues that might be raised by a fire authority could, for example, concern where temporary licences are being issued for some big event. Where there was a great deal of music, a good deal of extra lighting rigging might be put in place. There could be some risk of fire if the electrical equipment was in some way inadequate or if a venue was decorated with flammable materials. Those are the kind of issues that a sensible fire authority might want to raise with a licensing authority in developing the licensing statements that any licensing authority would put together.

Lord Avebury: Surely those factors would be taken into consideration in the awards of the individual licences. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, pointed out that the person who wanted to operate those premises with dangerous materials or inadequate lighting or whatever would be refused a fire certificate. Therefore, he would not get insurance. It is not a matter that would be taken into consideration in the formulation of the policy itself.

Baroness Blackstone: I am not sure that we are not dancing on the head of a pin here. The policy ought to set out what issues need to be taken into account when making a licensing decision. This is one example: when issuing a temporary licence for a large event, one needs to take into account some broad policy considerations in making the individual decision.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I began by being concerned about the provision—this is a probing amendment—but I am amazed by the Minister's response. She gave the game away when she said, "It is about licensing decisions". It is not. Of course, when it comes to individual premises or events, the fire authority must be consulted—it must be to obtain insurance. But we are discussing setting the overarching policy. It will be either so broad as to be meaningless or so specific as to include page after page of statements, which will vitiate the whole idea.

The Minister made two other points, which are always adduced. The first is that no serious additional burden is added by involving the fire authority. Every

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individual addition to bureaucracy can be justified on the grounds that, on its own, it is not a serious additional burden. None of these things is in itself a serious additional burden. The Government have been piling a series of straws on the camel's back of industry and all parts of our society for the past five years.

Secondly, the Minister says that there have been no complaints about the matter during consultation. Without being too cynical, there is always a culture that says, "We will consult on this and will not complain when you consult on that as long as you do not complain about this". There is a "you scratch my back" attitude.

The Minister's approach is confused. I understand about decisions on individual events and premises. The fire authority has an absolute duty and a vital role to play. But what the Minister has told us about setting the policy is extraordinary. We want to make progress, so I shall not press the amendment further, but I reserve the right to return to the matter later.

Baroness Blackstone: Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, I am saying that licensing policies should consider public safety. That should be part of the policy. One aspect of public safety is the risk of a serious fire in premises full of young people. Aspects of the policy therefore must engage with the issues surrounding public safety and the danger of fire when large numbers of young people are in such premises. I hope that that helps.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I absolutely understand what the noble Baroness says, and I do not want to plough the ground again, but in that case, there will be no variation across the country. What is unsafe for young people in West Bromwich will be unsafe for young people in Westminster. There is no need for variation, because fire safety—access and exits—is the same throughout the country. It depends on the number involved. There is no difference. The idea that fire authorities must be involved in one area as opposed to another and that special conditions must be imposed is outwith the facts of what we are trying to achieve in a licensing statement. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 109 to 113 not moved.]

2.30 p.m

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 114:

    Page 3, line 40, at end insert—

"( ) In drawing up, keeping under review or revising a licensing policy, a licensing authority must take into account the need to promote such live music, dancing and theatre as it considers to be for the wider cultural benefit of its local community."

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak briefly. I noted a reference in the earlier framework for guidance to advancing music, dancing and theatre for the wider cultural benefit of the local community. That does not seem to appear in the latest copy of the framework, although I may be incorrect about that.

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This is an important issue, and it should be in the Bill. It is appropriate that a licensing authority should take into account the needs of different communities when drawing up its licensing policy. The amendment is concerned with considering the interest in live music, dancing and theatre of many different communities of different cultural backgrounds. It is important that local authorities focus on the different interests that local communities may wish to pursue. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale: I support the amendment. One of the problems with public entertainment licences is that only 5 per cent of premises take out a public entertainment licence. In reply to earlier amendments, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said that the Bill was a deregulatory Bill. I take those views on board. In addition, however, the noble Lord always added the caveats of safety and public nuisance. It is important that, if those two conditions are met, as many premises as possible should provide music and entertainment if they want to do so.

It is an important issue. Deregulation should promote a flowering of music and live entertainment. The present system has led to a decrease in the number of venues and a decrease in the amount of live entertainment, even though there seems to be canned entertainment in every venue. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment, and I also ask the Minister whether the issue will be included in the guidance on the cultural strategies to be drawn up by local authorities.

Baroness Blackstone: We must keep reminding ourselves that this is the Licensing Bill. It is concerned with the four licensing objectives, which we have discussed at some length. However laudable its aims, the amendment falls outside the scope of the Bill.

As Minister for the Arts, I want to encourage local authorities all the time to do everything they can to promote the arts in their community. I take the point of the amendment on board to the extent that I can assure the Committee that the guidance to be issued will make clear that we want to see more live music and more dancing as a result of the reforms, and that unreasonable conditions that might discourage that should not be attached to licences. But the licensing authorities should be focused on the licensing objectives rather than on the promotion of something else, however much we might want to see it. I hope that, in the light of what I have said, the noble Baroness can withdraw the amendment.

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