Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, far be it from me to take a combative line. I am emollient at this time of night. However, did not the Minister give an indication that there would be variation in the fees? We do not believe that that is the case.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, has anyone ever accused me of being combative? I am no such thing. I am on the side of the people and of local communities. I am on the side of those who would say that situations might develop in local communities which make it desirable for the licensing policy of the local authority to be subject to variation. What happens? The Opposition parties and the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, say, "Oh, well, it will be five years before we get around to reviewing our licensing policy. Indeed, we're not allowed to review it in less than five years from now. You'll just have to wait until that time". That is not a plausible point of view and it does not fit in with any of the fine words which have been used in discussing the previous amendment.

Amendment No. 32 would remove the fire authority from the list of those who are required to be consulted. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, said of the fire authority that its specialist expertise in public safety in regard to a building is vital. He referred to a building rather than to a policy, but there is a positive as well as a negative aspect to this. The fire authority can say "No" to provisions in a building, but surely it should have the opportunity of saying "Yes" to a positive policy which is in favour of fire prevention. In the week after Rhode Island, we should be particularly concerned to do that.

Excluding the fire authority is bad for the industry. The system is designed to be collaborative rather than adversarial. The policy is a useful tool to industry in developing applications because it allows the fire authority to state its priorities and give an indication of the issues to which it would pay attention while assessing applications. Surely, that is to the benefit of the industry rather than to the disbenefit.

Amendment No. 36 requires the licensing authority to publish details of those consulted on the licensing policy. That is exactly what we shall do in the regulations. It is not appropriate for that to be on the face of the Bill, but, clearly, the intention behind Amendment No. 36 is admirable.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, after that combative or non-combative effort, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, may say that he is on the side of the people but he is actually on the side of regulation, red tape, bureaucracy and centralised control, as

24 Feb 2003 : Column 111

evidenced by the Bill. It carries a degree of centralisation so far unparalleled. I will be combative, too, and test the opinion of the House on this amendment.

9.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 31) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 16; Not-Contents, 56.

Division No. 5


Attlee, E.
Blatch, B.
Bridgeman, V.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L. [Teller]
Buscombe, B.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Craigavon, V.
Fookes, B.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L. [Teller]
Luke, L.
Marlesford, L.
Montrose, D.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Shrewsbury, E.


Addington, L.
Andrews, B.
Barker, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Chester, Bp.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Filkin, L.
Gilbert, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Judd, L.
Layard, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Maddock, B.
Mitchell, L.
Morgan, L.
Northbourne, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sharman, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Slynn of Hadley, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Turnberg, L.
Varley, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.48 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville moved Amendment No. 31A:

    Page 3, line 26, at end insert—

"(2A) Subject to subsection (3), in determining its policy a licensing authority must have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State under section 177."

24 Feb 2003 : Column 112

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. As the Minister will know, this is the second half of the duality in which I moved Amendment No. 26. As the first amendment in that group sought to take away powers from the Government and Amendment No. 31A would restore the balance and give something to the Government, I withdrew the amendment which removed powers. Now I will have to find the procedural way, whatever that is, of not pressing the issue.

I am not absolutely certain whether, in her reply to Amendment No. 26, which was in a sense subordinate to the other amendments in that group, the Minister provided me with an answer to my concern about whether the licensing statement would be superior to the guidance issued by the Secretary of State or vice versa. I will study precisely what the Minister said on that occasion. She may wish to add something at this stage. I am not minded to prolong the debate, having withdrawn the earlier amendment. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for making it clear that he was dealing with the amendment in combination with Amendment No. 26, to which he has already spoken. As he said, it would have limited the application of the guidance to the determination of the statement of licensing policy only rather than the exercise of the licensing functions in general. My noble friend the Minister made clear in her reply why that was unacceptable. In any case, taken on its own merits Amendment No. 31A is not necessary. The determination of licensing policy and the publication of the licensing statement is a licensing function of a licensing authority. By virtue of Clause 4(3), a licensing authority already has to have regard to guidance in formulating policy. Furthermore, the requirement for consultation in Clause 5(3) still applies, so, on its own merits, with or without Amendment No. 26, the amendment is unnecessary.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, it has been a rare privilege to be answered by not one Minister, but two on a combined set of amendments, even if they did not appear in the same group. I said that I would withdraw the amendment, and I shall do so. However, I shall read what the noble Baroness said in answer to the first one to see whether the issue is now settled. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 33:

    Page 3, line 38, at end insert "and of schools, social services and parents in its area"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, local authorities have to produce a statement of licensing policy under Clause 5. That statement will have to take into account the licensing objectives of the Bill, one of which is the protection of children. It therefore seems strange that there is no mention of parents or those who know about the protection of children in the list of people

24 Feb 2003 : Column 113

whom the local authority is required to consult. That seems so clearly an unintentional omission that I do not intend to speak at any length on the subject.

Amendment No. 34 refers to the possibility that the chairman of the area child protection committee should be the one consultee. That is not quite wide enough. The area child protection committee is responsible for children at risk, but not for all children—not even for children in need. Including parents, schools and the area child protection committee would just about cover the matter. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I support Amendment No. 33. I hear the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that our Amendment No. 34 is not wide enough. We had degrouped the two amendments, but I felt it would be sensible at this late hour to speak to them together, particularly as the noble Lord has referred to Amendment No. 34. I take his comments on board.

Clause 4 introduces a new statutory licensing aim of the protection of children from harm. However, Clause 5(3), which establishes those with whom a statement of licensing policy must be agreed in consultation, does not mention any representative of the expertise and interests of those already co-ordinating work to protect children from harm in the locality. As well as their overarching role in co-ordinating the action to protect children from abuse and neglect, area child protection committees are also directed to consider the protection of children at risk from the misuse of alcohol. Amendment No. 34 would ensure that the new statutory aim of protecting children was advised and consulted on at the local level as effectively as the three aims relating to crime and disorder, nuisance and public safety. I have come back to this subject again and again.

Concerns are widespread that, under the new system for simplified premises licences, children will be allowed to frequent pubs and bars, in principle, unaccompanied by an adult, even late at night. In that case, the amendment, which was suggested to us by the Children's Society, would prove an important first step in drawing the area child protection committee into local licensing policy and considerations.

We feel, too, that in order to ensure consistency nationally the guidance from the Secretary of State should include strong directions for authorities' consideration of licence applications, and the kind of conditions that should be attached to protect children from harm. As well as the general discretion to attach licence conditions in pursuit of the licensing objectives, we believe that specific guidance should relate to all licence applications for premises where alcohol consumption by adults will be the primary activity, or among the main licensable activities, and all applications for premises opening beyond eleven o'clock at night. For those applications, there should be a referral of the question of children's appropriate access to the area child protection committee in the process of considering the application.

24 Feb 2003 : Column 114

Each application and any awarded licence should include one of a number of the following items, subject to the advice of the committee. For example, it should include a specified lower age limit for unsupervised access; set aside hours during which restrictions on children's access should apply; specified types of activity during which restrictions on children's access should apply; and specified areas of the premises to which restrictions on children's access should apply.

This is a sensible amendment, although it is only a first step. We have other amendments, to which we shall speak later, which relate to what we believe is the right restriction on the age of those allowed, on principle, into premises, unaccompanied and with unrestricted access. This area is proving increasingly emotive outside your Lordships' House, as people become aware of this extraordinarily liberal measure. In our minds, it does not ring true with the Government's stated policy of developing a family friendly culture. How can it be family friendly if the parents do not have to be there?

I take on board the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. The amendment by itself may be too narrow, given that the area child protection committee is most concerned with children at risk.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page