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Lord Davies of Oldham: I share that objective with the noble Baroness: there should be clarity. That is part of the reason that we have sought to safeguard the Secretary of State's role in issuing guidance.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Does the Minister realistically think that any licensed premises could meet the provisions of Clause 17(4)(a) to (h) on one side or, at most, two sides of A4 paper?

Lord Davies of Oldham: In our earlier debate, I said that the small village or urban pub of discreet pretensions will be able to meet its obligations in less space than a sheet of A4. Of course, where there are

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other considerations—as I said earlier, those overwhelmingly relate to those establishments that have much more multifarious roles than that of the ordinary village pub—the schedule will be a little longer. The noble Lord will recall that an earlier amendment concerned how onerous the provision will be for the average small hostelry. I sought to give reassurance about that, and I reiterate that assurance.

Baroness Buscombe: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 163 to 164 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes): Before I call Amendment No. 165, I advise the Committee that if it is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 166 due to pre-emption.

Viscount Falkland moved Amendment No. 165:

    Page 11, line 5, at end insert "having regard to the licensing statement of the local authority,

( ) a short description of the application which may be included in any notice advertising the application, and"

The noble Viscount said: As drafted, there is no obligation under the Bill on the licensee to have regard to the licensing authority's licensing statement. That may create unnecessary complication when applications must be decided. It is surely better for applicants to prepare their operating schedules in the light of the licensing objectives and the licensing statement. One problem with the existing system of notification is that it is not clear from the notice received from the magistrates or posted on windows exactly what an application is for, unless a local resident goes to the magistrates' court to consult the papers.

Where there are many applications in an area, as can happen, it will be a considerable burden on local residents to try to find out what each application is all about, and on the licensing authority to explain it. The amendment would ease that burden considerably and ensure that residents did not have to object to everything simply to create time for them to consult the papers and understand what the application was for.

Within that subject, I speak also to Amendment No. 303, which was tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville. It would insert the words:

    "having regard to the licensing statement of the licensing authority . . . a short description of the application which may be included in any notice advertising the application".

The two amendments are closely related. I beg to move.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Amendment No. 172 concerns regulations regarding the advertising and promotion of an application under Clause 17(5). It is a probing amendment, but I should be grateful for an assurance from the Minister about the degree to which this is expected to be extensive and costly. As I said earlier, 35,000 public houses are

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owner-managed. They are not necessarily enormously profitable; they are small businesses of a classic kind. The regulations required under subsection (5) could be perfectly reasonable. However, they could be very extensive and expensive. The requirement to give notice to each responsible authority and such other persons as may be prescribed could also be a burdensome activity.

It would be helpful if the Minister could explain the thinking behind this provision and give reassurance that this will not be an unnecessary and undue burden for people seeking to run sensible licensed premises.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful for the manner in which the noble Lords have moved their amendments. In the Bill, we are seeking to ensure that there is a balance between the removal of red tape for the industry and proper and sensible safeguards for the public. That is why some of these amendments are rather more dramatic in their effect than others.

Amendment No. 172 would have one very unfair effect and one very dangerous effect. It would remove the requirement for an applicant for a premises licence to advertise their application to interested parties; namely, local residents, businesses and their representatives. This would deny those parties the opportunity to make representations about developments in their locality that might affect their lives and businesses directly. I do not accept that the majority of the public would consider this omission as being acceptable.

Furthermore, it would even remove the requirement to notify those bodies which are expert when it comes to judging the merits of applications against the promotion of the declared licensing objectives. I am referring here to the police, the fire authority, the environmental health authority and others. The Government consider it quite unacceptable to place obstacles in the way of an appropriate assessment of the likely impact of an application on the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. The amendment is unacceptable.

Amendment No. 209 seeks to remove the obligation on the part of the applicant for a provisional statement to similarly advertise and notify his application through which local residents and businesses are kept fully informed about planned developments in their neighbourhood and can, along with the responsible authorities, make representations about what is being planned at an early stage. Provisional statements are designed to give developers of all shapes and sizes a degree of confidence but no guarantee that premises which they are developing, building or extending will be able to be used in the way that they expect in respect of the carrying on of licensable activities when the work is finally completed.

Applications for provisional statements will be advertised in the same way as applications for full licences. Interested parties and responsible authorities will be able to make their representations in the usual way.

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I want to reassure the noble Lord that the rights of residents are at the cornerstone of the Bill from the earliest stages. Anything that seeks to remove their rights to be informed of new developments in their areas is not acceptable. That cannot be right. If local residents cannot engage with the issue at an early stage, developers could have no confidence, if they continue with their planned development, that a premises licence is likely to be forthcoming when applied for at a later stage. In those circumstances, the investment will possibly not be made. It serves no one's interest to make this change which increases uncertainty in an area in which one would be seeking to provide assurance.

The amendments in this group seek to ensure that the applicant submits a short description of their application or variation of a club's premises certificate or their variation of a premises licence, along with other relevant paperwork. The description would then be used by the licensing authority to advertise the application or variation.

However, even if the licensing authority is required to advertise the application—which it is not—the amendments are unnecessary and would result in nothing more than an increase of paperwork and red tape for the applicant. The fact of the matter is that the Bill makes it crystal clear that it is the responsibility of the applicant—not the licensing authority—to advertise his or her application in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State and to notify the responsible authorities. These regulations are likely to specify what information is required in the advertisement and how widely it should be published. It will be a relatively straightforward matter for the licensing authority to determine whether an applicant has complied with the necessary advertising requirements.

The Bill is designed to rid the licensing system of a great deal of the current bureaucracy, not to increase it. I hope that I have established that in resisting these amendments I am seeking to protect a system which is clear, which lays obligations where they should be laid, but clear and appropriate obligations. On that basis, perhaps noble Lords will feel reassured about the amendments that they have proposed and be prepared not to press them.

7.15 p.m.

Viscount Falkland: I accept what the noble Lord has said. My amendments are concerned with residents and with absolutely clarity when applications are made. I am not convinced that more clarity is proposed than currently exists in the Bill. My amendment seeks to make matters even clearer, so that people know exactly what is proposed in relation to the licensing objectives. This is a probing amendment. This is a complicated area—much more complicated than it appears on the surface. I make no secret of the fact that many on these Benches are concerned with the position of residents in relation to the legislation. Residents should be in a position to understand the provisions fully and to be able to act when necessary.

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I shall read the noble Lord's remarks in Hansard. If necessary, I should like to speak to him before the next stage of the Bill; otherwise, I shall wait and see what happens. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 166 not moved.]

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