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Lord Redesdale: With that answer and the understanding that the Minister does not have any particular bodies in mind at the moment, I shall not press the amendment. It is unsettling that there is quite such a blank cheque. I am sure the industry will find that slightly unnerving, but I take the Minister at his word that the provision will not be used as an opening to include large numbers of other groups, or, especially, other quangos. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 153 not moved.]
Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 [Meaning of "designated premises supervisor"]:
Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 154:
The noble Baroness said: This clause introduces the issue of the designated premises supervisor, who looms large in the Bill and has been a topic of much discussion and consternation for all those involved. The clause defines the designated premises supervisor as the individual named on the premises licence as the premises supervisor. The requirement that the designated personal licence holders be formally linked to the premises licence threatens to increase significantly the bureaucracy faced by premises licence holders and the costs incurred by local authorities. It will lead to numerous applications to vary the licence as personnel move around. The requirement also runs counter to the flexibility of a split licensing system, set out in the White Paper.
In the event of an extraordinary incident, such as the designated supervisor leaving employment without providing prior notification to their employer, or the immediate curtailment of employment of the designated personal licence holder, the licensed premises will cease to be able to trade. The White Paper sought to move away from the system whereby a premises licence holder would be penalised for the actions of a personal licence holder without even the application of the due diligence defence. The clause will impose just that system.
Why have the proposals for a new system outlined in the White Paper been replaced by a system that involves more red tape? Local authorities and the industry were hoping for flexibility in the new licensing system. This issue of the designated premises supervisor is just one example of how those who drafted the Bill have failed in their promise to liberalise the licensing process.
I want to make an additional point that I believe is relevant. We are puzzled as to why provisions in the Bill deal with the designated premises supervisor, as he or she appears to have no function at all. However, a number of provisions in the Bill appear to give the designated premises supervisor some function. For example, Clause 19 provides that a designated premises supervisor is required where the premises licence authorises the supply of alcohol, and that no supply of alcohol may be made on any premises unless there is a designated premises supervisor in possession of a personal licence.
If a designated premises supervisor is identified in the premises licence and has a personal licence, those requirements are satisfied. There is surely no need for the designated premises supervisor identified in the premises licence to be on the premises, or even to supervise the supply of alcohol. That is made clear by subsection (3) of the same clause, which provides that,
We appreciate that a designated premises supervisor can be guilty of a number of offences in Part 7. However, the designated premises supervisor is just one of a group of people who can be prosecuted, including the holder of the premises licence or any person who works at the relevant premises. In any event, all the offences require knowledge of some activity being carried on. If the designated premises supervisor is not on the premises, he or she would not have sufficient knowledge for the purposes of the prosecution.
The functions of the designated premises supervisor in the Bill are illusory. Provided that a designated premises supervisor is identified in the premises licence and that he holds a personal licence, the requirements of the Bill are satisfied. That being so, we must ask ourselves whether there is some hidden agenda. Is it intended that the designated premises supervisor must be on the premises when alcohol is served? If that were the case, that
Voluntary organisations are in many instances, as the description suggests, run by volunteers. It surely would be unacceptable if a volunteer helping out in village life, and who was identified as the designated premises supervisor of a village hall, had to attend and supervise every function there. That would put intolerable pressure on a mere volunteer who gives up his or her time for free.
We therefore urge the Government to confirm that the provision is not intended to impose any obligations or functions on the designated premises supervisor. I beg to move.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Gould of Potternewton): I must inform the Committee that if Amendment No. 154 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 155 to 157 for reasons of pre-emption.
Lord Williamson of Horton: I make my customary declaration of interest as a non-executive director of Whitbread plc. I broadly support the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. As every vote counts, I am sure that she will be very happy to know that that is so.
We cannot look ahead too far to future amendments, but it is none the less true that Amendment No. 155 would alter the reference to the designated premises supervisor. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, will come on to that relevant point. Later, the jumbo group in which the lead amendment is Amendment No. 160 will suggest changes in how the information about the premises supervisor would be handled. That relates to Clause 36 in particular, under which we might have an application to vary the licence to specify an individual as a premises supervisor.
I enter the discussion at this point because I think it important that we should not get into a mindset that perhaps relates a little to the past. I also want to indicate, certainly in relation to a good number of companies that operate in the sectorfor example, pub-restaurantsthat we would not normally expect to start with a blank cheque if there were to be a change. That will not actually happen. What will happen is that the personnel who will deal in such premises, whether as designated premises supervisors or premises supervisors, are likely in many cases simply to be transferred from another establishment. That is good management, and is the way things will operate. The people who are arriving are likely to have already been accepted as designated premises supervisors, if the term remains in the Bill, or as premises supervisors.
The principle on which we ought to work is that we absolutely minimise the need to question again the position of someone who has already been accepted
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I have tabled some amendmentsAmendments Nos. 155 and 157that come within this area. It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we addressed those now, because my noble friend has eloquently spoken on the whole topic. She has been a good deal more radical than I had envisaged being in my amendments. I have been using a scalpel, and she has been using a cleaver. The cleaver is probably to be preferred in the end.
I do not want to repeat the points made by my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, except to say that the Bill is deregulatory. Ministers keep telling us that, but this part of it adds another layer of licensable persons. It really adds nothing to premises and personal licences, the concept of which we have broadly accepted.
As my noble friend said, the provisions have an illusory role. Perhaps I might give a practical example. There are about 70,000 public houses in this country, of which about half are owner-managed. In those cases, presumably the personal licence holder and the premises supervisor will be the same. There is only one person, because he is an owner-manager. Nothing will really be achieved. All the Bill would do is require more forms to be filled in and more people to be registered.
As for those who are in the managed sector, that is another 35,000 people to be enrolled, registered and tracked. Every change would be re-registered. It is not clear to me from the Bill exactly whether it is envisaged that one could have a premises supervisor for more than one premises, or whether there is a maximum number of premises to which a person may be a supervisor.
There would be another layer of bureaucracy as a result of a deregulatory Bill. It adds nothing that is not there already, with the twin approach debated during the Committee's earlier sittings. There must be a strong argument for taking a much more radical approach and using, as my noble friend did, the cleaver to reduce the burden on the industry.
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