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Lord Colwyn: I congratulate my noble friend Lord Crickhowell on being so steady on his feet. We should give credit to his anaesthetist. Having worked at events such as these over many years, I also support the amendment. It seems sensible that when a lot of money is spent putting up temporary structures the licence should last for longer than three days; it should be extended to a week. That would be sensible and the Government should give the matter serious thought.
Lord Monson: I, too, support these liberalising amendments, in particular Amendment No. 363A, bearing in mind that they are to some extent counter-balanced by Amendment No. 341 in this group and Amendment No. 340 in the next group. If these amendments are agreed, they would be a necessary counter-balance.
Baroness Buscombe: I hope the Committee will forgive me for speaking again. I have been dilatory in looking at the groupingI did not speak to all the amendments in the groupand perhaps I may take a little time to refer to them.
In addition to our concern about the time period for a temporary event, we are also concerned about the reference in the clause to the number of people allowed to attend such an event being less than 500. Amendment No. 338, which stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, seeks to address that concern.
Amendments Nos. 363 and 366 are very important. We believe that the restrictions and conditions in Clause 98 will have a decidedly negative effect on the performance and organisation of temporary events which are a focus of community life in this country.
As to Amendment No. 363, sites such as community halls host temporary events more frequently than five times a year. I recall saying at Second Reading that my local village hall in Goring and Streatley would come to a standstill by February because we have events there every night. In circumstances where it would not be proportionate to require a full premises licence, there may be exceptions where one is required. However, allowing only five events a year would be very restrictive for many premises. It seems a very low limit. Our proposed extension to 30 a year is sensible, reasonable and reflects our desire to encourage and facilitate temporary events.
Amendment No. 366 is desirable in a different way. It concentrates on subsection (7), which addresses the minimum time limit before the beginning of a temporary event within which a counter notice may be issued by the licensing authority. The Bill states that, until 24 hours before an event is due to begin, a counter notice may be issued prohibiting that event from taking place. That would be not only disruptive but a potential disaster for event organisers. It would leave only a day to cancel arrangements which may have been made a long time in advance and to notify those who had planned to perform at, or attend, the event. Temporary events may be organised at short notice, which is probably why the period of 24 hours was chosen. Amendment No. 366 proposes an extension of the 24-hour minimum period to 72 hours as, we believe, a fair compromise between event organisers and attendees, and the licensing authority.
Amendment No. 363A is also included in this group. I apologise for returning to these points. Clause 105 imposes a limit as regards temporary event notices. It provides that a licensing authority must issue a counter notice: first, if the premises user is a personal licence holder who has already given 50 temporary event notices in the same calendar year; secondly, if the premises user does not hold a personal licence but has already given five temporary events in the same calendar year; or, thirdly, if five temporary event notices have been given in respect of the same premises in that year.
We take issue with the third restriction. It would create enormous difficulties for village halls, whose income depends on the hiring out of the premises for events that might include licensable activities. Noble Lords will also note that I have another amendment to this subsection. It would permit village halls to have 30 events involving licensable activities a year. On
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The amendments in this group would have a mutually contradictory effect. That is not the fault of those who moved them, but the result of how the grouping was done. Let me repeat our aim as regards temporary event notices. We are trying to identify those applicants and events that are so rare or modest as not to be licensable activities. Many events will benefit because they are licensable activities already, and therefore the requirement to provide a temporary notice is a good deal lighter than what happens now. That is the intention of the Bill. The "light touch" system is to benefit those who do not generally engage in the business of carrying on licensable activitiesthat is to say, those who do not have a personal licenceby allowing them, for example, to hold a fundraising event in a hall without a premises licence.
When we discussed the early part of the Bill, noble Lords expressed a huge number of fears about new events coming into the scope of licensing. We are now making it clear that many of those fears were unjustified. In other words, the temporary event notice is a simple way of providing the minimum notification, if you like, for events of this kind, which ought not to concern bureaucracy. But there must be a certain number of safeguards, and we need to protect the system from abuse by unscrupulous people who might seek to evade the licensing system. So, we have set limits.
First, as referred to in Amendment No. 338, we have set a limit of 500 people. In our consultation, some people wanted the limit to be higher; others wanted it to be lower. I do not think that anyone suggested that it be taken away entirely, because events of more than 500 peopleparticularly those with significantly moreare of a size close to events that cause disturbance; for example, raves. I do not know how many of Lord and Lady Digby's concerts or performances involve more than 500 people. I suspect that few houses in Britain could accommodate more than 500 people.
Lord Crickhowell: I dealt with the point about duration, which is much more important. However, as someone who has suffered from raves, I accept that there must be a limit, and that a limit may be useful.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Then, I can divide and rule among the proponents of these amendments. We must find a figure. Five hundred may not be exactly the right one, but the police and others have suggested that it is a reasonable figure. Additional protection in Clause 158 gives the police the power to close down for up to 24 hours premises for which a temporary event notice has been given and a temporary licence granted, where they are a source of noise, nuisance or disorder likely to threaten public safety. We hope that that will
However, we think that temporary licences should be just that: temporary. We stipulate 72 hours. That covers, for example, a whole bank holiday weekend. If we made it a whole week, as Amendment No. 337 proposes, personal licence holders, who can hold 50 events a year, could hold events, admittedly in different premises, without any licence other than a temporary event notice. That does not make very good sense.
The temporary event notice covers the sale of alcohol. Surely, it is not unreasonable in those circumstance to say that in any one premises there should be only five temporary events a year. The neighbours of those premises would not be sympathetic to the idea of such events happening 30 times a year as proposed. Village halls are a different matter. They already require both licences to sell alcohol and public entertainment allowances. The Bill would not increase the burden on them. I gave the example previously of the school sports club situated opposite my house. Not more than five times a year, it holds a rave-up, with hugely noisy music until four o'clock in the morning. We either try to go away or we grit our teeth and bear it. If it were 30 times a year, we would get much more stroppy about it. Amendment No. 363 goes over the top.
On fees, the Secretary of State can set a nil or reduced fee for these categories of premises. He can do that in regulations. But, even if there were no waiver or reduction of fees, halls such as village halls could be expected to pay fees of around £100 for a premises licence application. That is not much if it covers 30 events a year. There is also an annual fee of £50 for the licence. We think that a temporary event notice will involve a fee of about £20, which is minimal.
As for notice, the arguments work in the other direction. I say to my noble friend Lord Clarke, who seeks to restrict the use of temporary event notices, that we do not see why a local authority should require more than 10 days' notice of an event. We are not talking about a licence application but a simple document. Of course, there is some pressure on resources. We have recognised that by extending the notice period from the five days, which we set out in the White Paper, to the 10 days in the Bill. However, we consider that 10 days is the limit. The notice given to the police and coming from the police and any counter notice fits in with the 10-day period.
As it stands, this is a very deregulatory measure. It goes as far as we think it is safe and reasonable to go in view of the protection of local people. We do not think that it can conceivably cause any detriment to those organising music festivals of the kind that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, described. The Aldeburgh festival would require a licence as it is a big event. But, surely to have in any one premises an event lasting up to 72 hours, five days a year, is generous.
Lord Monson: Before the noble Lord sits down, he has made some not unreasonable arguments against some of the amendments in the group. But I think he will agree that he has not succeeded in demolishing the powerful case made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for Amendment No. 366. In fact, I do not believe that he referred to it at all. It concerns the giving of a notice.
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