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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I support the amendment. Although it is a probing amendment, the issue is important.

We have had many debates on the impact of the Licensing Bill on the amenity and the neighbourhood and how it will affect different areas. We are concerned about the idea that a levy or fee might be paid, which seems to be based on a pilot study done on Peter Street in Manchester, where bars and pubs were asked to pay money towards an extra police officer, with the police paying for another officer. That led to a reduction in crime, so we support it as a scheme on a voluntary basis, but we would have severe reservations about making it a national scheme.

There are some stress areas that would react well to that sort of scheme, such as the Big Market in Newcastle or parts of the West End. If the scheme was conducted in a broader area, it would be extremely unfair on smaller pubs that have no problems with the type of behaviour exhibited in the stress area. I hope that the Minister can give an indication that no such national levy is being considered.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I understand fully the sentiments behind this amendment. It is designed to clarify the extent to which managers and staff are responsible for the conduct of customers after they have left the premises. I hope I can do that. As the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, it is a probing amendment.

The Government's position has always been that the licensing regime is focused on individual premises and individuals when they are on those premises. The Bill provides the specific offences of allowing disorderly conduct on licensed premises; sale of alcohol to, or obtaining it for, a person who is drunk on licensed premises; failure to leave licensed premises; and so on. It is very difficult to see how it could be otherwise.

Licensees have a range of tools to control people's behaviour while they are on the premises—not all of them born of legislation. However, once the customer leaves the licensee's sphere of influence, his or her power over them is rapidly attenuated. Indeed, I made that clear during earlier stages of the passage of the

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Bill. That said, there is a range of measures on which licensees in a particular area can collaborate to reduce disorder collectively. For example, some town centres operate a radio paging system so that messages relating to disorder issues can be disseminated rapidly to all licensed premises. That can help in alerting all licensees in a particular area when trouble is occurring, ensuring that disorderly groups cannot simply move from pub to pub.

Noble Lords will be aware, too, of the provisions in the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 relating to on-the-spot penalties in respect of disorderly behaviour while drunk in a public place and to the offence of buying or attempting to buy alcohol for consumption in a bar in licensed premises by a person under 18. We should not be introducing anything to reduce the breadth of powers of the police under the 2001 Act.

The focus of the Bill itself falls squarely on the premises. It is precisely because of that focus that this amendment is unnecessary, although I accept that it is a probing amendment. I should point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that one should never believe what one reads in the newspapers. We have no intention of imposing such a levy—the article is not true.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, moved an amendment in Committee about police charging and we resisted it. We believe that industry contributes to the cost of policing and that the matter is properly dealt with in voluntary arrangements such as those that take place in Peter Street in Manchester, to which I referred on several occasions.

I hope that has reassured noble Lords and the licensed trade that licensees will not be penalised for the activities of customers after they have left the premises and hence the licensee's control. In view of that, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response to this probing amendment. I believe the Minister when she says that the article that I quoted is not true. I am grateful to her for being so clear on that point. However, although I would love to agree that one should not believe all that one reads, one could follow with that awful cliché;No smoke without fire". Noble Lords will appreciate that such an article will make many people wonder whether the aims of the Government, Her Majesty's Opposition and other noble Lords on the Bill will be undermined by another Bill at a later date.

I urge the Minister to ensure that this debate gives rise to a true example of joined-up government, with the officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport making our views clear to officials from the Home Office, so that they are fully aware of what has been said today. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Lea of Crondall moved Amendment No. 220:

    After Clause 141, insert the following new clause—

(1) Section 1 of the Licensed Premises (Exclusion of Certain Persons) Act 1980 (c. 32) (exclusion orders) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1), for "may" there is substituted "shall".
(3) In subsection (3), for "two" there is substituted "ten"."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if we conducted a public opinion poll on the question, "Do you agree that people found guilty of violence against staff in a pub should be excluded from that pub for a long time?", I would guess that around 95 per cent of people should say, "Yes". Indeed, they would express astonishment that it is not already the case. This is the sort of practical measure that would help to connect politicians with ordinary people in public and saloon bars.

We have often debated violence against staff, and it has often been said that we want to do all that we can to eliminate that sort of appalling behaviour but that it is difficult to achieve. If that is the case, why are we not already doing what is proposed in the amendment?

I hope that the Minister will not take comfort from the marked reduction in the number of exclusion orders from what, on any interpretation, was already a small number. In the early 1990s, it was something like 70 and about 25 in the mid-1990s, when the statistics suddenly dried up. I may be wrong about those statistics, but no doubt I will be corrected if I have looked up the wrong ones. However, the reduction is marked. I have talked to the trade unions and employers, who are all concerned about the marked reduction. Their conclusion is not that the problem has gone away. The explanation lies in the roles of the magistrates' courts and the licensing courts, and the relation between them.

When people are found guilty of a violent offence, why are they not automatically excluded? Surely, a priori, one would think it the simplest thing in the world to attach automatically such an order to a sentence. The measure was included in a White Paper in 1980, but mysteriously disappeared. Does the problem relate to automatic sentencing or some related objection, or is it a technical problem relating to court procedure? If so, we should deal with it in the Courts Bill—and we have the opportunity to do that.

If the problem relates to the sort of objection that I have mentioned, it is an illogical objection, as will become clear when we give the matter a moment's thought. It is not exactly an infringement of liberty to be kept out of a pub, is it?—especially, if one has been proved guilty of committing a violent offence in that pub.

Without making a long speech, I ask my noble friend to take the matter forward by agreeing to consider carefully how the principle can best be drafted before the Bill is sent to another place. I beg to move.

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4 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I support the amendment. It is unfortunate that exclusion orders were not included in the Bill. Perhaps the Minister can tell us why they were not. They would have been extremely helpful. Bar staff can be intimidated when people who have been barred return and make life difficult for them.

I also support one scheme which has done most to counteract violence in pubs. The Minister mentioned the pager scheme in the previous amendment, which is part of the national Pubwatch scheme. I commend the work of all those who have set up that voluntary scheme and who have tried so hard to make sure that it is a national scheme. In considering the good work and the fact that the Minister has mentioned that scheme today, will she press her colleagues in the Home Office to make sure that there is adequate funding for it? It is a scheme that works. It has prevented a great deal of violence by groups who have caused violence in one pub, have been thrown out, and who have then moved on to the next one. Having said that, I very much hope that the Minister will give some reasons as to why exclusion orders were dropped from this part of the Bill.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I support this very sensible and worthwhile amendment.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, Amendment No. 220 would insert a clause into the Bill amending the Licensed Premises (Exclusion of Certain Persons) Act 1980.

The 1980 Act provides that on convicting an individual for an offence involving violence or threats of violence on licensed premises, a court may make an exclusion order banning the individual from those premises or other specified premises unless the licensee consented to his admission. Orders can have effect for not less than three months and not more than two years. An offence is committed if the person breaches the court's order.

Amendment No. 220 would make two key changes to those provisions. First, it would remove the court's discretion not to make such an order. It would also increase the maximum period of such an order from two years to 10 years. The White Paper, which was published in April 2000, proposed that the courts should be empowered to impose longer bans for up to 10 years and, in the most serious cases, for life. I therefore have some sympathy for the proposal to increase the maximum period of the ban. Nevertheless, I must resist the amendment.

Perhaps I may explain why the position has changed. Following the White Paper consultation, we examined the prospects of including this measure in the Bill. However, there is a question mark regarding whether a licensing Bill that deals mainly with regulatory and administrative arrangements is an appropriate statute in which to address sentencing matters. In the context of human rights, there are also

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sensitive considerations in relation to the proportionate nature of bans of such length, particularly where the subtext for the offence could involve a problem with alcohol that borders on illness.

Our concerns in this area have led us to decide not to include such a change on this occasion. I should add that it may also be considered odd that, where a ban of such an arguably draconian length is imposed by a court, it should be up to the licensee or his staff as to whether it is enforced. That aspect certainly needs more consideration.

Noble Lords should also appreciate that licensed premises are private properties and no licensee is obliged to admit any person to his premises so long as he does not unlawfully discriminate. Licensees can and do bar individuals from their premises, sometimes for life. Indeed, Pubwatch schemes often ensure that certain individuals are barred from pubs across a widespread area. Incidentally, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that I shall certainly pass his comments on to my colleagues in the Home Office about resourcing schemes of this kind.

We do of course appreciate the concerns that exist to protect licensees and their staff who are sometimes the victims of drunken violence. The 1980 Act is already there to provide some degree of protection, but in our view the amendment goes too far.

Our concerns are increased by the proposal to remove the court's discretion not to make an order following a relevant conviction. If the offender worked on licensed premises—let us say as a member of staff—and was convicted of offences involving threats of violence after a squabble with a drunken customer, an exclusion order of the kind proposed could cost him his livelihood. It would be a very significant sentence indeed.

We cannot therefore agree that the court should have to add an exclusion order to the sentence being given, which might be a conditional or even an absolute discharge. At the other end of the scale, it would be somewhat burdensome for a court to have to make an exclusion order in the case of a person being sentenced to life imprisonment, say, for a very serious act of violence.

The criminal courts are the appropriate bodies to decide whether such orders are necessary and whether the making of such an order is a proportionate response to the particular offences committed in the individual circumstances of any case. I do not think we should be trying to settle the argument between mandatory and discretionary sentencing in a Bill of this kind. It is a matter to which this House is bound to return in the context of a number of other, perhaps more appropriate, Bills.

So, in the light of the points I have made, I hope that noble Lords can agree not to press their amendment on this occasion.

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