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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for making the points that I was going to make. The differences referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, are not those between areas but those between different premises. The conditions applied to a licence will reflect the various needs of different premises. They will include, of course, some reflection of the area, but they will not be applicable necessarily to all the licences in a particular premises. There are parts of Westminster and of Soho where very different circumstances arise, but there are areas around here in Westminster where one has quiet little pubs which are no different from country pubs. I think that most of us know which they are.

It would be quite inappropriate for the City of Westminster to have different requirements for operating schedules from other licensing authorities. There is indeed a transfer of a burden from licensing magistrates to local authorities. It is not an increase; it is a transfer of a burden to bodies generally agreed by all those who responded to consultation on this Bill to be more democratically accountable and more appropriate to be the licensing authorities. To give licensing authorities the possibility of huge differences in the way in which applicants have to apply to such an authority for permission would be a huge burden on business and would give no perceptible advantage to

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those who have to live in the area or to those who would otherwise be involved in representations on a particular application.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I thank the Minister for those comments. I am interested in his point about areas within areas. I wonder whether the Government would consider something like the system that operates in countries like Australia, where different rules apply to what might be called tourist hot- spots. Such areas could be in any major city in the country. There may be an area equivalent to Soho in Leeds. The requirements in such areas are different.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I know the road that leads from Manley Ferry to the beach, too.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I cannot claim to know Leeds. I was throwing that out as a possible example, but it could apply to any city. I wonder whether the Government might give some thought to this matter when they draft the forms. I appreciate that there are areas in Westminster—and in all parts of London—which are extremely quiet, but there are other areas that are under different pressures which are a cause of concern. Perhaps he could think about that before the next stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 162:

    Page 10, line 36, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

"( ) a description of the proposed relevant licensable activities, including such details as may be required by the authority in its statement of licensing policy,"

The noble Baroness said: In rising to speak to Amendment No. 162, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 301. These amendments are not dissimilar to the previous amendment. The difference in terms of wording is that our amendment makes specific reference to the statement of licensing policy. I shall be brief. I listened to what the Minister said on the previous amendment, but I should like to ask for his view on certain activities that might take place in a particular area and whether the Government believe that this is something they should bear in mind in relation to the operating schedule. As it stands the definition of the operating schedule under Clause 17(4) leaves much to the regulations but also, regarding activities likely to take place at the premises, provides only that there shall be a statement of the relevant licensable activities. One particular area in which such a description would be totally inadequate—certainly in the view of some local authorities—is where striptease and similar forms of entertainment are to be provided in the licensed premises. The Minister must forgive me. I have not yet visited Australia so that may be the sort of area he was referring to.

At present, local authorities as public entertainment licensing authorities have the ability to place conditions on the provision of such entertainment and can ensure that it does not take place in certain premises where it would be inappropriate, due to the

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locality. For example, it is common for authorities to have policies which ensure that no such activities take place in premises near places of worship or schools. It is important that licensing authorities should be provided with this type of detail so that they can continue to take well informed decisions. I beg to move.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots: In this group of amendments we have Amendment No. 170 which is concerned with the operating schedule. This will give my noble friend Lady Gardner a chance to come at me from the other direction. Amendment No. 170 removes paragraph (h) which states:

    "such other matters as may be prescribed."

As presently drafted, this surely meets the requirement of my noble friend. This is a parallel issue to what we discussed before when the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, was somewhat concerned at having to defend a difficult position on another matter. The operating schedule is already very extensive in covering the relevant licensable activities, the basic times of opening, any other times of proposed opening, the length of the licence and whether the consumption of alcohol is to be on or off the premises. It also contains steps to promote the licensing objective which in itself could be lengthy, with four sub-sets. Then at the end to have,

    "such other matters as may be prescribed",

seems to leave an open-ended opportunity to have not one or two sides of A4 paper but many sides, as over time it is considered desirable to prescribe more and more.

Our debates on earlier amendments left me concerned that there was going to be considerable discrimination between large and small premises, that matters might become complicated and that, over time, the smaller licensed premises might be asked to do more and more, depending on the local authority licensing committee, which would inevitably be risk averse. There are no "brownie points"—there is no mileage—for such a committee in not gathering as much information as it can. Therefore, while one might be able to live with the provisions of Clause 17(4)(a) to (g), paragraph (h) was a bridge too far. We do not need an open-ended possibility for pressure to be applied for regulations to become broader, wider and more extensive over time.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I rise as my Amendment No. 171 is in this group, and I am in favour of the idea of having more control over what is prescribed.

However, I really rose to say that I do not claim to know anything about the seedy side of Australian life. I realised as the debate went on that your Lordships thought I referred to night-clubs. However, I was referring to tourist zoning, such as where there are different hours and days of shop opening. Singapore is the same: if an area is considered to have many tourists, it is treated differently from other parts.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Let me begin by defending my noble friend. The part of Australia to which he

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referred was not the seedy side but a road with substantial hostelries at which one could get a drink in large company. So I can reassure the noble Baroness that my noble friend is no more acquainted with the seedy side of Australia than she or I.

On the general issues, it is quite clear from the representations made on these amendments that there are divided counsels on the Opposition Benches. The reason why counsels are divided is because the Front Bench is operating at one extreme with regard to their amendment, while the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, is operating at the other extreme. The Government are, rightly, balanced and are in the middle, between those two extremes. This is the beauty of the measure. We seek to strike a balance between the need—

Baroness Buscombe: I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me, I feel the need to intervene. As I have said, I listened to the Minister in relation to previous amendments, and this was certainly not something that I was pushing. To that extent, I am certainly not at the opposite end of the spectrum to my noble friend Lord Hodgson. However, this is a question I believe should be aired because it is of concern to local authorities. As we are discussing this general area, I think that it merits a response from the Government.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I understand what the noble Baroness says. I did not seek to make too big a point of this, but the arguments about the amendments come from different perspectives. That suggests that the Government have got it all just about right: we have a balance between the need to prevent crime, disorder and public nuisance, to ensure public safety and to protect children from harm and to reduce the regulatory burden on industry—an express objective of the Bill.

Irrespective of the force with which noble Lords have presented their amendments, I am pointing out the obvious fact that, were they to be carried, the balance in the Bill would be severely upset. After all, we want a thriving hospitality and leisure industry. We all know how important that is to the country because of the money involved. It is right that we create a level playing field. The operating schedule is a key tool for achieving that balance.

Wherever they are based, businesses need to know what information they must provide on their schedules. That will allow swift, proportionate decisions to be taken to enable them to operate in a professional and responsible way. To allow licensing authorities in effect to specify their own form of operating schedules would undermine that objective of uniformity. It would also run counter to the Bill's central deregulatory approach, which relies to a large extent on the applicant describing how he or she intends to carry on licensable activities on the premises.

Problems have arisen in the past where licensing authorities have imposed a raft of standard conditions irrespective of whether they were necessary. The Bill sets out a simple system based on the four clear objectives which, while providing for flexibility,

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provide the foundation for the new system and should eliminate some of the inconsistencies of the current system without adding to—in fact, reducing—the amount of bureaucracy involved.

Although the aim is to minimise the administrative burden on applicants, the Secretary of State's power to add further matters to the list of those that must be included in the operating schedule is necessary to ensure that if, in the light of experience, it proves desirable for the operating schedule to contain additional information—for example, whether meals will be served or the hours for which children will be admitted—that may be provided for quickly and flexibly. Its use would be subject to the negative resolution of Parliament. The Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, which reported favourably on the Bill, was content with that power and did not regard it as excessive.

One problem with the current system is that the detailed technical and administrative processes are set out in primary legislation, and we have had to wait for almost 40 years for parliamentary time to change them. By allowing the Secretary of State that power, changes can be made quickly, efficiently and across the board—again, supporting the level playing field. So that is the basis for that power of the Secretary of State, which I defend against the amendments.

I recognise that the amendments are probing amendments. We have now had substantial debate about how the operating schedule will operate. I hope that it will be recognised that the Government have the balance of the Bill about right, and that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

7 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe: I want briefly to refer to paragraph (g), as have other Members of the Committee, which is dealt with in a later amendment that I shall not now move. I hope that it will become clear to all prospective premises licence holders what,

    "the steps it proposes to take to promote the licensing objectives",

means. I can imagine most individuals trying to fill out an application form and schedule scratching their heads and asking themselves, "What does that mean?", when all they want to do is open a business and get on with it. We hope for clarity.

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