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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I support my noble friend's remarks in relation to this group of amendments. Like him, I believe that this is a core provision. Without these or similar changes, the Bill will be wholly inadequate.

It is no exaggeration to say that unless we have such amendments, which entitle the licensing authorities to form their own views as to the merit or otherwise of licensing applications—in effect to give them discretion—there will be an automatic procedure, as provided for by Clause 18, in which the local authorities are in effect ciphers of central government. One needs to remind the Government that under Clause 4 licensing authorities must have regard to the guidance issued from Whitehall. The framework for guidance already makes it perfectly clear that it will encourage longer drinking hours and encourage a semi-automatic approach to dealing with applications for licences.

Clause 18 as drafted is one of the most complicated provisions to find one's way around that I have encountered in the five years that I have been in this House. That is regrettable. I am not casting aspersions

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on the draftsman or draftswoman. No doubt, complying with their instructions as they were given them led to this particular combination of subsections. But frankly, for the police, magistrates, local authorities, brewers and publicans to find their way around Clause 18 and the provisions that spin off it will be a daunting task.

Anyone reading Clause 18(1) might think that all is okay. It says:

    "This section applies where the relevant licensing authority . . . receives an application for a premises licence".

Then come the comforting words:

    "made in accordance with section 17".

People may think, "That's good. It has to be in accordance with Section 17". But when you look at Clause 17, you see that it is not a qualitative clause at all; it contains a whole series of formal requirements—time limits and what has to be included in the operating schedule. One might turn to Clause 18(1)(b), which says that the licensing authority must be,

    "satisfied that the applicant has complied with any requirement imposed on him under subsection (5) of",

Clause 17. Anyone inclined to take solace from that would be severely misled, because subsection (5) deals with regulations as to timing advertisements and the like.

Clause 18(2) tells us that the licensing authority,

    "must grant the licence in accordance with the application"—

those are very pregnant words—

    "subject only to . . . such conditions as are consistent with the operating schedule".

Again, the uninitiated might think that this was a solace. They might think, "Oh, well that's all right, it has to be in accordance with the schedule." Then they discover that the operating schedule is the schedule drawn up by the person seeking the licence—so that is no good.

Clause 17(4)(g) looks as if it might give some support for what might be called the wider public interest, such as the interest of residents. It says that the operating schedule must deal with,

    "the steps which it is proposed to take to promote the licensing objectives".

But there is nothing there about whether the steps proposed by the applicant are adequate steps or will deal satisfactorily with the licensing objectives—nothing of the sort. Even if that part of the operating schedule was woefully inadequate and provided steps towards the four licensing objectives that were on any reasonable assessment hopelessly inadequate, the licensing authority has no discretion to do anything about it. That will be the case however worried, concerned or distressed the local councillors are and however much they know that it will cause mayhem in their district. They can do nothing.

As my noble friend Lord Falkland said, only a relevant representative can make an objection of a qualitative nature to which the licensing authority must have regard. There again, however, one is trapped in the extreme complexity of the language of

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the clause. "Relevant representations", as defined by Clause 18(6), are extremely narrowly drafted. If local citizens banded together, they would be interested parties under the Bill. They might say that having the local pub open between midnight and five in the morning would have a severely disruptive effect on the amenity of the village. They might not be referring to people being drunk and disorderly or violent, but simply to the constant to-ing and fro-ing to a pub at all hours throughout the morning. That would not qualify as a relevant representation, however, which is surely utterly bizarre. Subsection (6) defines a relevant representation as one confined to,

    "the likely effect of the grant of the premises licence on the promotion of the licensing objectives".

We all know, because we debated it earlier, that Clause 4 defines the licensing objectives in a wholly inadequate way. The only one that comes anywhere near amenity of local residents is the public nuisance test. I shall not repeat the arguments, which were made on all sides of the Committee, that to have public nuisance as the only amenity test gets nowhere near the issues that will concern decent, ordinary folk. It is not even dealing with private nuisance. We are concerned about severe breach of amenity without any nuisance at all.

It is an Alice in Wonderland set of provisions. First, they deprive the licensing authority of any qualitative judgment or discretion as to the satisfactory nature or otherwise of the operating schedule put forward by the applicant for a licence. The proposals deprive the authority of the ability to do the very thing that the Government have led us to believe they are there to do. We have had a lot of talk about how much more democratic and improving it will be to have local councillors rather than magistrates as the licensing authority, because they are nearer to mother Earth and much more answerable and accountable to local citizens, who are their electors. However, they have no discretion or judgments that they can make and, what is more, local residents have no powers even to make a representation that is not confined to "licensing objectives".

As if that is not enough, Clause 18 goes on to rub the point in. The authority cannot have regard to any other matters unless they are,

    "necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives".

That phrase is used twice.

Unless Clauses 4 and 18 are fundamentally amended, the Bill will prove seriously inadequate. It will not give the public the protection that they deserve and it will not strike the balance that the Government repeatedly say is their dearest wish.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My amendments later on deal with Clause 18 to a certain extent. Several of the points have been raised already, and I shall deal with them on this amendment. In particular, subsection (2) says specifically that the licence must be granted and the reasons for not doing so are few and far between. As with planning applications, the weight is in favour of the applicant. It is not evenly balanced.

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There is a strict time limit on when representations may be made. There are all sorts of reasons. People might be in hospital or abroad and not know about things. I compare the situation to an employment tribunal, for which there is a strict time limit. Applications must be in by a certain date. However, it is possible to apply for an out of date hearing or consideration of your point of view, as it would be in this case, if you can prove that there is a good reason why you did not bring in your reason earlier. Perhaps you never received the letter. I do not know by what means notification will be given to applicants. It has always been necessary to prove that clearly. If items are sent by recorded delivery, the Post Office receipt can be produced as proof of whether they were received. It is not possible just to say, "I did not get it. I live in a building with other people and someone else might have picked it up". That is not good enough. However, if someone is in hospital—this applies in many cases—it would be very unfair if their representations could not be heard simply because they were outside the strict time limit. I support the amendments.

Lord Borrie: I find it difficult to understand how, under Clause 18(2), any licensing authority worthy of its name can be expected to have to grant a licence except when there are representations. The whole thing is dependent on representations. I do not need to elaborate on the narrow way in which those representations must be made, because the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, has made those points.

Because the turning down of an application is so utterly dependent on representations and for the reasons given by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, and other reasons, it seems a most extreme form of unsatisfactory licensing policy if licences must be granted whenever there are no representations.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I shall respond to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, separately from others. The noble Lord hates Clause 4. Nothing we can do will convince him that Clause 4 is right. Any changes that are made to Clause 18 are never going to satisfy him unless we go back and change Clause 4.

So far as other people are concerned, it is true that the Bill provides that if no representations are received the licensing authority is required to grant the licence with conditions attached that are consistent with the operating schedule. However, the whole process is designed to do two things. The first is to allow simple and uncontroversial applications through without a hearing. I hope that those who seek to represent applicants will support that, as it is a major deregulatory provision and a major move away from the unnecessary democracy—whoops! I mean that it is a major move away from the unnecessary bureaucracy and the 50 statutes that govern the hearing of applications.

The system, which relies on relevant representations, is fair, open and transparent. It ensures that there is thorough and focused scrutiny of

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applications. The police, fire authority, health and safety and environment bodies and others will be statutory consultees on every application for a new licence or certificate, or variations on existing ones. Nothing is going through without consultation. Local residents and businesses will also have the right to a say in all new applications, and to call for the review of existing licences. Under those circumstances, who is being frozen out of the process? Certainly not the statutory consultees, and I suggest not the residents and businesses.

To ensure a balance between the interests of the public and those of the industry, any conditions attached to the licence or certificate must be necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives. With the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, we have on the whole had agreement about the licensing objectives.

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