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The Earl of Listowel: I was unavailable for earlier days in Committee. I consulted colleagues who have been following the Bill but they did not seem to be aware that this issue had been raised before. I should have checked Hansard to ascertain whether it had.
If the Minister feels that this matter has been rehearsed before, I will be very happy to read his previous response. However, if the Minister has not had a chance to answer before, I should be grateful for a full reply, even at this late hour, because of the importance of the issue.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I confess that I have had a chance to rehearse the arguments before. Entirely inadvertently, I had not noticed that the noble Earl was not in his placehe is such an assiduous attenderand so, as it was grouped with other amendments on which we had a substantial debate, I addressed the issue contained in his amendment. I am reluctant therefore to rehearse the arguments in full again at this late hour.
I recognise the concern in all parts of the Houseit is shared by the Governmentthat we must get this part of the Bill absolutely right. It is very important that we should extend the opportunity to make pubs family friendly. An attempt was made in 1994 to liberalise the licensing laws and to increase the opportunities for young people to participate in pubs, particularly those who went with their parents into certain parts of pubs. The number of applications for the extension of these opportunities has been pathetically small. This is a reflection of the fact that, despite the intention of liberalisation with proper safeguards, it just did not work.
So, within the framework of the Bill, we are having a second shot at creating a more liberal and family friendly framework while at the same time having a proper regard for the issues raised by the noble Earl in both his amendment and his speech. Other noble Lords have participated in this debate for a second time and expressed similar opinions.
We recognise that this is a significant part of the Bill. I cannot accept the amendment. There are all sorts of reasons for that, but it would take me until well beyond the witching hour to identify them. The noble Earl will forgive me if I do not do so. Although I cannot accept the amendment, I can assure the noble Earl that we recognise the extent of the feeling on the issue, which he exemplifies but which has also been expressed from
On that basis, I ask the noble Earl, at this hour of the evening, to accept our good intent. There is time for us to engage in consultation on this very important issue. I hope that, on that basis, he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn. In so moving, it may be helpful if I inform your Lordships that the usual channels have agreed that we now plan to conclude the Committee stage of this Bill next Monday, 20th January, as first business after Starred Questions.
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