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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, my right honourable friend will no doubt address the issue shortly in relation to university finances. The biggest contribution that the National Health Service can make is to ensure that at local level NHS mental health services work hand in hand with higher education institutions to offer appropriate support.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not believe that there is any such evidence. Interestingly, the major reason given for student drop-outs is dissatisfaction with the course rather than the financial issues.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, I declare an interest as chief executive of Universities UK, which produced the report. Does my noble friend agree that the universities are committed to tackling the problem highlighted in the report? Does he also agree that adequate support, including funding, is essential to ensure that the training of personal tutors and other staff involved becomes central to their continuing professional development?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I certainly agree that the training of staff is very important. Personal tutors and counselling services have a big role to play in universities. The points made in Part 4 of the report on training and awareness-raising are particularly appropriate. I commend that to individual institutions.
Lord Marsh: My Lords, I have an involvement at a distance in the issue. Does the Minister agree that one problem in this sad area is that, after a suicide, the reasons remain incomprehensible to everybody involved?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, that is an apposite point. That is why the report's recommendation encouraging the training of staff in awareness identification is so important. I understand that 80 per cent of higher education institutions have set up working groups to look at their policy in relation to mental health studies. I am sure that they will wish to examine that point and take it forward.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, what resources will the NHS dedicate to deliver the Government's national suicide prevention strategy? If the Minister cannot answer that, how can he be sure that the strategy will be delivered?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, of course the strategy is important, and one expects it to be funded out of the allocation given to the National Health Service. As for mental health services generally, we intend that £329 million be invested over three years to 2003-4. Since the introduction of the National Health Service Framework, there has been considerable development in our mental health services. That
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the figures given in the Universities UK report show that in 1994-95 there were 174 full-time student deaths. That rose to 178 by 1997-98, although I do not believe that the increase is statistically significant. What it seems to show is that the number of suicides in universities is not particularly out of line with the number among young people generally. That does not mean to say that universities ought not to give particular focus to the problem.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, later this afternoon, between consideration of the Licensing Bill and the Courts Bill, my noble friend Lord Bach will repeat a Statement: Iraq, further contingency preparations.
The powers to close premises when there is disorder or expected disorder, or when public nuisance has been caused by noise coming from the premises, purport to be an important counterweight to the general emphasis on the grant of all applications come what may. However, as drafted, the provisions in relation to closure are limited and not exercisable by the authority best placed to determine whether the power should be exercisednamely, the licensing authority.
The amendments to Clause 157 would allow the licensing authority to make an order requiring premises to be closed for a period not exceeding 24 hours on the application of the police rather than the magistrates' court. The role of the magistrates' court should be to deal with appeals against such an order.
The amendments are consistent with the existing provisions in relation to the misuse of drugs in premises licensed for public entertainment. Under those provisions, the police may request a licensing authority to suspend a public entertainment licence when it is necessary to prevent the misuse of drugs on licensed premises. Those provisions have operated and worked well in Westminster, where collaboration between police and the city council under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 has been excellent. Were the framers of the Bill aware of that productive collaboration when they drafted it? Westminster is not under such tight control as to crime that we can jettison effective methodologies.
Amendments Nos. 423 and 424 to Clause 158 would permit the licensing authority, as well as the police, to exercise the powers to make a closure order for identified premises. As the power to make a closure order is exercisable in the interests of public safety or because closure is necessary to prevent a noise nuisance, the licensing authority is the more logical authority.
On Amendments Nos. 425 and 427, along with Amendments 423 and 424, it is not clear whether the police are the appropriate party to deal with noisy premises. It would be better for the local authority, with its infrastructure in place in this respect, to take on responsibility and for the police to focus their resources on serious crime. I emphasise the difficulties that the police have in dealing with crime in inner London simply because of shortage of resources. When the job could sensibly be done by others, it would be a sensible economy. I beg to move.
Amendments Nos. 420 to 422 to Clause 157 would transfer the power to require the closure of all licensed premises in a particular area from the magistrates' court to the licensing authority. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said that the restriction on the powers of the licensing authority was undesirable. The courts have similar powers now, under the Licensing Act 1964, although that Act uses the delightful phrase, "riot and tumult". It is a significant power, but not one that is used often. Recently, it has invariably been used in response to concerns about the behaviour of fans attending football matches.
I put it to the Committee that there are good reasons why the Bill should leave this power with the magistrates' court rather than transfer it to the licensing authority. First, although a closure order could be made in advance, it is designed to be made in an emergency. The police and local authority might be aware that a demonstration is taking place some weeks before and be content with arrangements for it. They might then get intelligence on the day before the event; for example, that a particular group known for causing trouble intends to turn up and cause trouble. To decrease the risk of crime and disorder, they decide that a closure order should apply to premises in the vicinity of the demonstration route. If the magistrates' court believes that a strong enough case has been made, it can sit in emergency session to provide the police with that closure power at short notice. A licensing authority would not be able to do that, so there could be a failure to deal with disorder of which there is intelligence in advance.
Secondly, we have to recognise that an order of this kind restricts people's freedom. Those running licensed premises on the route of a demonstration will almost certainly be free of blame themselves. It will be no fault of theirs that the police judge that there is a risk of disorder, but they could suffer financially from
Amendments Nos. 423 to 425 and 427, in Clause 158, would allow the licensing authorities as well as the police to order the closure of a particular premises where there are concerns about disorder or noise nuisance. These powers simply carry on from the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, which amended the 1964 Act. These are reactive powers designed to allow the control of disorder or nuisance. The police will have to think about the likely reaction of customers and where they are going to go to. If, for example, there were football fans from two clubs, the police might decide that, rather than close the premises, they should remove the fans of one of the clubs and leave their opponents there. However, that is a decision that can be made only by a senior police officer. It is difficult to see how a licensing authority can make that type of operational decision. I hope that these amendments will not be pressed.
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