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Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the noble Baroness give way? She may like to be reminded that the Government do not yet have an alcohol harm reduction strategy. One has been promised for years but is still in the process of gestation.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. It illustrates better the point I am attempting to make.

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I believe that the Government are sincere in their wish to find ways to reduce this growing problem—one that worries all of us. Criminalising children is, in our view, not the way to deal with this. I hope that the Government will give time to this issue between now and Third Reading. I know that there is not much time, but we should be grateful if it were possible to discuss this issue at some length with the various children's groups tomorrow. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 223 not moved.]

5.15 p.m.

Clause 147 [Consumption of alcohol by children]:

[Amendments Nos. 224 and 225 not moved.]

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 226:

    After Clause 149, insert the following new clause—

(1) A responsible person commits an offence if, on any relevant premises which are licensed principally for the sale by retail of alcohol, he knowingly allows an individual aged under the age of 14 to be in that part of the premises where such sale takes place during any such sale unless that individual is accompanied by another individual aged 18 or over.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.
(3) In this section "responsible person" means, in relation to a licensed premises—
(a) the holder of a premises licence,
(b) the designated premises supervisor, or
(c) any individual aged 18 or over who is authorised for the purposes of this section by that holder or supervisor."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 164 [Review of premises licence following closure order]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 227:

    Page 89, line 34, leave out "Regulations may" and insert "The Secretary of State must by regulations"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 169 [Relaxation of opening hours for special occasions]:

[Amendment No. 228 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 229:

    Page 94, line 6, at end insert—

"( ) Before making an order under this section, the Secretary of State must consult such persons as he considers appropriate."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 170 [Activities in certain locations not licensable]:

Lord Greenway moved Amendment No. 230:

    Page 94, line 25, at end insert—

"( ) aboard a vessel licensed to carry less than 100 passengers engaged on a journey,"

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment deals with an aspect of the Bill which, so far as I am aware, we have not yet discussed.

Clause 170 lists a number of exemptions from the Bill's provisions, including various modes of transport: aircraft, hovercraft and trains on domestic journeys, and vessels engaged on international voyages.

I tabled an amendment in Committee to add domestic passenger vessels to this list, but due to an unfortunate mix-up over timings was unable to move it. I had tabled it as a result of the widespread concern expressed by domestic passenger ship operators at the Bill's provisions, coupled with their annoyance at the fact that no prior consultation had taken place with their trade associations, or with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, which oversees all maritime regulatory and safety matters and which, I understand, does not look too kindly on a whole host of different local authorities getting involved in marine activities.

I understand, however, that since Committee stage some meetings with the department have taken place at which it became clear that, as a result of the inquiry into the "Marchioness" disaster, the Government are primarily concerned with the tidal Thames, where the largest concentration of boats exists. Many of these are used as tourist boats by day and as what are termed disco boats by night. I appreciate that the latter activity gives rise to concern. It is noisy, and there is a potential for anti-social behaviour when passengers come ashore at night. Furthermore, these tend to be year-round activities.

I understand that during the discussions some measure of sympathy was expressed in regard to smaller boats elsewhere in the country. As a result, I have narrowed down my original amendment to one which seeks to delete only those domestic passenger vessels or craft which are licensed to carry 100 passengers or fewer. It is aimed specifically at that part of the industry which operates inland; that is to say, on canals and on certain sections of non-tidal waterways such as the River Thames above Oxford and, moreover, on a more seasonal basis.

Such activities are an integral part of local tourism, which is still struggling to recover from the disastrous effects of the recent foot and mouth crisis. I do not need to remind the Government that tourism is one of the main planks for their plans for regeneration of the countryside. The prime purpose of these vessels is tourism and the sale of alcohol amounts only to some 10 or 15 per cent of their income, which hardly puts them into the same category as public houses.

Despite the sympathetic noises from the department, which I mentioned, it could well be that 100 passengers might be considered too high. But I have chosen the figure carefully. Most of the larger, so-called, "disco boats" have two decks and carry well over that number. The larger single-deck boats which operate below Oxford also carry more than 100 passengers. Those to which my amendment would apply almost invariably have only a single deck in order to be able to pass under low bridges.

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Among the latter is a horse-drawn barge, which operates on the Kennet and Avon Canal and can carry 90 persons. Many other canal vessels cater mainly for coach parties of around 60 to 70 passengers. At the other end of the scale are a number of small craft carrying as few as eight passengers, where the "bar", if I may describe it as such, is nothing more than a cupboard containing a couple of bottles of spirits. All operators of such boats regard the provision of the bar as a valid part of what they offer. And what can be more pleasant than enjoying a glass of beer, or perhaps something a little stronger, when gliding through the countryside on a warm summer's afternoon?

Under the provisions of the Bill, the cost of licensing and all the extra work that that involves would in some cases make a considerable dent in bar profits and would impose a substantial burden on operators who run a fleet of boats. In addition, I think it most unlikely that the activities I have described would lead to anti-social behaviour. Indeed, I find it hard to recall a single incident, certainly one that is drink related. On the other hand, I can well remember a number of serious disturbances that have occurred among football fans travelling to or from matches abroad on vessels that are specifically excluded from the effects of the Bill.

It would be a tragedy if a number of small businesses engaged in the rural tourist industry were forced to scale down their operations, or even close down, as a result of what is widely regarded in the boating industry as an unnecessary sledgehammer-like approach to deal with what is perceived as an almost non-existent problem. I hope that the Minister will be able to give me some satisfaction. And if he does not like this amendment, perhaps he will indicate that between now and Third Reading he might be prepared to find an alternative way of achieving a similar end. I beg to move.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I support the amendment. I understand why the Government have adopted their present position, given my experience of living close to the River Thames from Monday to Thursday. Often I have the benefit of hearing some of the large disco boats which travel up and down and that may have been a prime factor in the minds of the draftsmen. However, many other people are involved in the industry, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, particularly on canals and rivers. A good deal of the business there has suffered badly as a result of the foot and mouth crisis.

The industry is beginning to recover to some extent, but it foresees that if the legislation is passed, a good deal of additional bureaucracy and cost will fall on to its shoulders. Alternatively, it will simply stop making alcohol available, which in turn will affect business in the longer term.

I hope therefore that the Government will reconsider the matter. Like much of what we have seen in the Bill, this issue is one of proportionality. If left as it stands, the provision will place a substantial additional burden on a good and successful part of the

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tourist industry. We should be seeking to encourage, rather than discourage, it. Yes, we need regulation and deregulation from the Bill, but we need to strike a balance. The ideas put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, present us with an opportunity to effect some changes, if not precisely in line with the amendment. If the Minister is prepared to explore the issue, we can find a balance that is acceptable to the industry and will produce results which will make everyone happy.

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