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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government have reflected carefully on the House's debates in Committee about relevant offences. As a result of our considerations we wholly support Amendment No. 195, which would substantially change the Bill's definition of a conviction for a relevant offence. Amendments Nos. 214 and 215, which stand in my name, are both consequential to the changes envisaged by Amendment No. 195. Having made those concessions, however, I must resist the other amendments in the group.

If taken in isolation from the other amendments in the group, Amendment No. 195 would mean that if an applicant for grant or renewal of a personal licence had an unspent conviction for any offence listed in Schedule 4 to the Bill, the licensing authority would be required, on considering an application for grant or renewal of a personal licence, to notify the police.

The police, having regard to that conviction, would then be free to notify the licensing authority if they considered that to grant or renew the licence would undermine the crime prevention objective. On receiving such a notification, the licensing authority would be required to hold a hearing at which all the parties would be able to put their arguments. After hearing the arguments, if the licensing authority were satisfied that it was necessary for the promotion of the crime prevention objective to refuse the application, it would do so.

That would be a significant strengthening of the arrangements in the Bill debated in Committee. We have listened carefully not only to the points made in the House, but to points made to us directly by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and we believe that Amendment No. 195 meets those concerns.

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The other amendments take matters much further, and we believe that they go too far. They would create a new concept of "serious offence" which adopts the formulation that the Bill currently uses to create a threshold in respect of convictions of relevant offences identified in Clause 112(3). The object of the threshold had been to identify the place where a conviction could be disregarded for some, but not all, purposes in the Bill. A conviction for a serious offence would mean automatic refusal of an application for grant or renewal of a personal licence. Effectively, the individual would be banned for life from ever holding the authority to sell alcohol by retail. In addition, the proposal is that on convicting a personal licence holder for a "serious offence" as defined in the amendments, the courts would be obliged to declare the licence forfeit.

What kind of message would that send about rehabilitation? I am grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said about that. Under the amendments, a life ban would arise out of any conviction for an offence currently listed in the Bill at Clause 112 if a custodial sentence of at least 30 months had resulted. We question whether that could sensibly be regarded as proportionate, and it might well give rise to questions of human rights. A man convicted of theft or assault at the age of 21 would still be subject to the automatic ban at 40 without any consideration of how his circumstances might have changed. We do not think that reasonable. To accept the amendments would write such individuals off regardless of the efforts that they might have made, and of whether probation and prison services that work with such individuals during and sometimes after the completion of their prison sentences would welcome that. I very much doubt that they would.

We also have difficulty with the idea that the sentencing court should have no discretion when deciding whether or not the licence should be forfeit. No doubt the court would take such action in very many cases. However, this is still a matter that should be judged on the individual merits of each case in all the circumstances that have given rise to the offence. I do not believe that we should be attempting to settle arguments about mandatory and discretionary sentencing in a Bill that is focused on licensing.

I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that we have gone a long way down the road of ensuring that the public are properly protected by accepting Amendments Nos. 195 and 214 and moving Amendment No. 215 in order to strengthen the qualifying tests and increase the involvement of the police. We believe that the other amendments in this group go too far.

I therefore ask the noble Baroness not to press her amendment and to accept that Amendments Nos. 195 and 214 are all that is necessary to meet the concerns of noble Lords. I also ask the House to accept Amendment No. 215 which, as I said earlier, is consequential to the changes that we are proposing.

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3.30 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very full reply. I accept what she said about a life ban. It may seem stiff but it has been worth our while to push the matter to strengthen our case. I accept what she said about the question of proportionality. Any sentence that carries a conviction of more than 30 months involves a fairly serious offence. We are relying to a large extent on rehabilitation that works.

We are grateful to the Government for listening to our concerns, which have been echoed by the Association of Chief Police Officers. It understands the issues better than all of us. We are pleased to withdraw our Amendment No. 193 and hope that noble Lords will agree to Amendment No. 195 and Amendment No. 214, which strengthens the test, and consequential Amendment No. 215. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 4 [Personal licence: relevant offences]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 194:

    Page 116, line 38, at end insert—

"An offence under any of the following provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48)—
(a) section 107(1)(d)(iii) (public exhibition in the course of a business of article infringing copyright);
(b) section 198(2) (broadcast etc. of recording of performance made without sufficient consent);
(c) section 297(1) (fraudulent reception of transmission);
(d) section 297A(1) (supply etc. of unauthorised decoder)."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 112 [Meaning of "conviction"]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 195:

    Page 62, line 32, leave out subsections (2) to (4).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 115 [Application for grant or renewal of personal licence]:

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 196:

    Page 63, line 37, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

"(2) An application for the grant of a personal licence must be made to the Central Licensing Authority."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 116 [Individual permitted to hold only one personal licence]:

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 197:

    Page 64, line 14, leave out from second "the" to end of line 15 and insert "Central Licensing Authority"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 118 [Determination of application for grant]:

[Amendments Nos. 198 to 202 not moved.]

Clause 119 [Determination of application for renewal]:

[Amendments Nos. 203 to 206 not moved.]

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Clause 121 [Duty to notify licensing authority of convictions during application period]:

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 207:

    Page 66, line 40, leave out from second "the" to end of line 41 and insert "Central Licensing Authority"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 122 [Convictions coming to light after grant or renewal]:

[Amendments Nos. 208 to 211 not moved.]

Clause 127 [Forfeiture or suspension of licence on conviction for relevant offence]:

[Amendments Nos. 212 and 213 not moved.]

Clause 129 [Court's duty to notify licensing authority of convictions]:

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 214:

    Page 71, line 16, leave out subsection (2).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 130 [Licence holder's duty to notify licensing authority of convictions]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 215:

    Page 72, line 7, leave out from "apply," to "or" in line 9.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 216 not moved.]

Clause 134 [Unauthorised licensable activities]:

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 217:

    Page 74, line 6, at end insert "covered"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to explore the area covered by these newly made offences, which may be for doing something that is not in itself very harmful. The amendment suggests that there should be an offence only if the activity is conducted in covered premises, not if they are being conducted in the open air. As I say, this is an exploratory amendment and I shall be glad to hear the Government's explanation of the situation. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I appreciate the manner in which the noble Lord proposed the amendment, which he defined as exploratory. I am afraid that it leads to a dead end so far as the Government are concerned. The amendment would not stop activities that are carried on outdoors from being licensable but would preclude effective enforcement if an authorisation was not obtained. It would be an open invitation to the less scrupulous to flaunt their responsibilities.

One of the virtues of the Bill is its flexibility. It makes provision, for example, for village fetes, where the use of temporary event notices will ensure light-touch regulation. It also provides for larger-scale outdoor events, which carry serious implications for public order, safety and nuisance—events such as very large concerts in Hyde Park and the Glastonbury Festival, to name but two.

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We must ensure that issues of public safety, the prevention of crime and disorder and public nuisance, and the protection of children from harm are considered by organisers of large-scale open-air events such as those to which I referred. It is also imperative that expert bodies have the opportunity to consider proposals for such activities. We all remember the tragic death last year when 250,000 people turned up at a concert held on the seafront at Brighton but only 60,000 were expected. That provoked Fatboy Slim to say that he would not play at another free show in Brighton unless he could guarantee people's safety. At the rather more sedate Brecon Jazz Festival in 1999, 90 arrests were made for drug offences and 23 for public disorder offences.

Even events on a much smaller scale have the potential to give rise to problems. The problem with the amendment is that it would, for example, effectively allow a rock band to perform out in the open—perhaps in a park in the centre of a residential area—without any authorisation.

As well as in the entertainment context, no offence would be committed if a person, whether or not a personal licence holder, sold alcohol outdoors without authorisation. Nor would it be an offence to provide late-night refreshment from uncovered premises without authorisation. I am not convinced that the public would thank us for allowing such a state of affairs to obtain.

We must ensure that open-air activities come fully within the ambit of the Bill in order that matters relating to the promotion of the licensing objectives can be properly considered. Where people undertake licensable activities without appropriate authorisation, they must be left in no doubt that they are committing an offence. I hope that the noble Lord recognises that there is a strong case against the amendment and that he will withdraw it.

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