|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Avebury: I support the amendment and urge the Government to undertake research that would enable us to form some opinions about these matters. To a large extent we are arguing in the dark. I referred earlier to a study undertaken by the Liverpool Royal Infirmary in collaboration with one of the biggest night clubs in Liverpool to ascertain how many of the casualties brought into the A&E department were a direct result of events that had taken place inor in the vicinity of, to use an ill-defined termthe establishment concerned. That was a model of its kind. I would like more research to be undertaken by the owners of licensed premises, in collaboration with their neighbouring hospitals, to see to what extent the people being brought into the hospitals had had accidents or suffered injuries as a result of the drink that they or somebody else had consumed. The
Quite apart from that, there seems to be deliberate myopia about the effects of alcohol on injuries in general. I am not just talking about road accidents. We know something about them, because the police collect statistics that show the extent of road injuries caused by alcohol. There are a host of other kinds of injury. In any area in which the late-night economy flourishes, large numbers of young people congregate in the neighbourhood of the establishments, behaving aggressively and on the verge of committing offences of violence against each other. Sometimes they break out into offences of violence, as we know from some notorious cases in which, for example, prominent footballers have been involved in the neighbourhood of these establishments. Why do we not undertake the research that would enable us to answer questions about the links between these establishments and the accidents and emergencies that are brought into our hospitals?
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: We are coming towards the end of the Committee stage. I have prayed in aid experience in Westminster on a number of occasions. In support of my noble friend, I pray in aid a brief experience in the City of London. A month after I became a Member of Parliament, a surgical team at Bart's invited me to spend 24 hours in the hospital, parking my car at 8 o'clock in the morning in the great quadrangle devised by Gibbs and not removing it until 8 o'clock the next morning. I was to follow the surgical team wherever it went. It was an extremely good education. I went into the operating theatre on that Friday afternoon. We agreed that, although I was to sleep in the hospital, if the surgical team was called on by accident and emergency to go into the operating theatre again to repair people who had been cut up in drinking episodes in Islingtonbecause Friday was pay dayI was to be summoned from my bed and go through the night with them. In the event, the team was lucky that night, although I was warned that the odds were rather worse than 50:50 that I would be required to come. I therefore join my noble friend and others who have spoken in saying that this is an admirable subject on which research might be done.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I recognise that the Committee has expressed keen interest in the matter. We had a substantive debate on Amendment No. 88, which referred to a possible report of this kind. Ensuring public health is one of the Government's key priorities. We hope the Bill will bring about a positive change in the drinking culture of England and Wales to complement the work of the national alcohol harm
The Government take these issues very seriously and we shall continue to monitor them. However, we do not need to set down in primary legislation a requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a report every year on the matters covered by the Bill. The Government already publish much of the information proposed for the report. The Bill is about carrying on a range licensable activities, including the provision of entertainment and late-night refreshment, not just the sale and supply of alcohol.
The Bill is not about 24-hour drinking, as the amendment seems to imply. It is about giving applicants for premises licences the ability to determine their opening hours according to the preferences of their customers and taking the views of local residents into account. We expect a very small proportion of premises to want to be open for anything like 24 hours.
It seems unfair to saddle the representatives of licensing authoritieswhich I understand to mean the Local Government Association and its sister organisationswith the burden of producing a report on the impact of the policy on the level and nature of crime, vandalism, nuisance, noise or other anti-social behaviour. We should not underestimate the magnitude and difficulty of that task. As far as I am aware, the Local Government Association does not currently collect statistics that would enable such a report to be compiled. It would have to develop a reliable set of indicators that could demonstrate a correlation between the phenomenon cited and the reforms in licensing policy. The indicators would also need to be able to distinguish between the influence of licensing policy and other factors. For example, I am sure we all recognise that the overriding factor that determines the amount of alcohol that people consume is its price in relation to their disposable income.
The suggestion in the amendment is that we could isolate the impact on public health of the extension of licensing hours, in some cases. That is a very difficult burden to place on licensing authorities. We have other means of identifying the health of the nation, contained in other documents and presentations by the Secretary of State for Health. It is not needed in the Bill. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister, although his response was disappointing. My amendment does not necessarily suggest that we are talking about 24-hour opening. I cannot find one publican who is in favour of opening his premises for 24 hoursfar from it. I keep talking to publicans and others who cannot understand why the legislation is being changed, as it will put enormous pressure on the industry and local authorities.
There is genuine concern about the effects of alcohol on people of all ages, but especially on young people. The Government know from the debates that we have already had that one concern that I particularly have is in relation to unaccompanied children with unrestricted access. What will the effect be on them with regard to alcohol?
We are encouraged to believe that the Bill will reduce the incidence of binge drinking, but we are not convinced. We hope that the Minister is right. However, the sort of information that we want local authorities to provide the Secretary of State would be for the benefit of industry, local authorities and the consumersof all of us. It would help all of us better to understand whether such radical, liberal legislation will work. There is no doubt that we all have in the back of our minds what Deputy Chief Assistant Trotter said before our debates began, that alcohol equals crime and disorder. We hope as much as anyone that the results of the Bill will not lead there to be more reason to believe that statement.
The Government are wrong to shy away from encouraging local authorities to collect these statistics. We are looking to the future. As for the argument that the Bill concerns entertainment as well as alcohol, we may not be so interested in entertainment in this regard. However, we are genuinely, sincerely and deeply interested in the effects that the Bill will have on alcohol, especially as it has an impact on our young people. For the moment, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: I will be as brief as possible. I was grateful to all Members of the Committee who supported me over the previous amendment. They may feel that this is another opportunity to stress to the Government that this legislation represents a radical leap in the dark, and perhaps one that should be taken with care.
The amendment offers the opportunity of a pilot scheme to ensure that the effects of the Bill might be introduced gently. We do not mean to be negative, but the amendment would provide the opportunity to draw back and reconsider, if the Bill did not work and it emerged from a pilot scheme that the impact was too great on local residents and placed pressure on the industry. I beg to move.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I support my noble friend's idea of a pilot schemethat would be fine. However, a rolling programme, working it out across the country, would be difficult to operate. It would make for extremely difficult operating conditions for companies if some operators of the many thousands of licensed premises were covered at one point and some were not covered until later. A pilot scheme that allows
Baroness Blackstone: I understand the sentiment that lies behind the amendment, but we are disinclined to accept it for two reasons. First, the amendment is unnecessary because the Bill already provides the Secretary of State with the power that it envisages. Secondly, notwithstanding the existence of the power, it would not be desirable that it should be exercised as the amendment suggests.
Clause 196(2) should be read in conjunction with Clause 192, which deals with regulations and orders. It provides for flexibility in making the administrative arrangements for the implementation of the legislation. Those powers already allow the Secretary of State to provide for commencement in different parts of the country at different times and for different purposes. The amendment is therefore redundant.
We would not want to leave Members of the Committee with the impression that we believe that allowing for commencement in different places at different times is a good idea, for exactly the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has given. The scheme that we propose to follow involves a transitional period that will begin soon after Royal Assent, during which existing licences of all types will migrate on to the new system and applications for personal licences will be processed.
At the end of the transitional period, all new premises and personal licences should come into effect on the same day. That is to prevent unfair competition, with one premises allowed extended hours and others still subject to restrictive permitted hours. The Secretary of State would need quite a lot of persuasion to use her commencement powers as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, suggested. If two neighbouring authorities were to adopt the reforms months or years apart, it would not take long before businesses started to relocate from one area to the other. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment on that basis.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page