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(1) When a relevant representation has been made by an interested party or by a responsible person (other than the chief officer of police) in respect of any premises, the licensing authority must give notice of that fact to the chief officer of police as soon as is practicable.
(2) When the chief officer receives a notice of a kind referred to in subsection (1), he must as soon as practicable place a report before the licensing authority giving details of all incidents of crime and disorder (if any) on the premises or in the vicinity and related to the premises reported to the police during the most recent three months for which the information is available."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment was prompted by my experience listening to the licensing sub-committee of the City of Westminster on 20th February, when the head of CO14 Clubs and Vice Unit was not objecting to the renewal of the licence in question, but two officers attended to give evidence on their own initiative. The head of CO14 explained that the internal process in the police was that all officers who had anything to say about a particular application were to channel their comments through

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CO14, which would, in the light of all the circumstances, decide whether it was expedient to object.

In this case, having considered the information at their disposal regarding violence and disturbance at or in the vicinity of the premises, and in the light of what the management were doing about it and how many people were coming through the establishment's doors, it concluded that there were insufficient grounds to object to the renewal. A councillor then asked whether it would not be a good idea to present that evidence to the sub-committee. The officer replied that to be fair and ethical, the police would have to consider every individual offence to see whether it related to the premises, which would take a lot of effort.

I accept that in the West End, where there is a concentration of nightclubs in a small area, it may not always be easy to say whether offences committed in the vicinity are related to particular premises, but the police are already required to exercise their judgment on that in relation to closure orders under Clause 158(1).

As I see it, three groups of offences are relevant: those committed on the premises, about which there can be no doubt; those committed by someone who recently left the premises; and those where no evidence is available about where the offender was beforehand, or whether he was ever in any of the premises in the vicinity. When I say "evidence", I do not mean it in the strictly legal sense, because the police will generally know more about the background than is available in the form of witness statements. I take it that the phrase,

    "related to, the premises",

in Clause 158(1) must be construed in that way. People nearly always tell ambulance personnel where the victim had been drinking and the information may be given to the police by ambulance men or by witnesses who are not prepared to give formal statements. It is perfectly reasonable for the police to make their own judgment on whether an offence is related to the premises, short of being able to prove it to the standards that would be required in a court of law.

In pursuit of the licensing objective, the police should maintain records that allow them to analyse the connection between licensed premises and offences committed on or in the vicinity of premises. Those records must be produced when the police have imposed a closure order and are asking magistrates to order that the premises remain closed until the licensing authority reviews the premises licence under Clause 164(2).

In fact, the police keep computer records of all crimes reported to them, and I am told that it would not be difficult to analyse them in that way. That would mean that little further work would be required to produce the information for the licensing authority as required by the amendment. Without it, it is difficult to imagine how the licensing authority will set about achieving the objective of reducing crime and disorder.

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The Minister has accepted that there is a relationship between alcohol consumption and crime, and that the presence of large numbers of people in open public spaces can give rise to problems of disorder and nuisance. The combination of the two causes the harm. Large numbers of people without alcohol are completely innocuous, as we saw from the recent anti-war march, in which more than 1 million people participated without, as far as I am aware, any increase in crime or disorder in central London. But put the two together and we get trouble, as the House would be aware if the Minister had been able to give the figures that she said she would try to provide when I asked her for them on 19th December at col. 801.

If I may say so, the Minister could not have asked the police about the figures, because when I did so, they were able to give me month-by-month statistics for 2002 of calls to the police classified as violence against the person in the Charing Cross and West End Central police areas of Westminster and, for comparison, the whole of the boroughs of Croydon, Barnet and Merton. The totals are instructive. In Barnet, there were 649; in Merton, 299; in Croydon, 889; but in central London, 1,495.

From those figures, your Lordships will deduce what is in any case intuitively obvious: the more late-night drinking establishments there are, the greater the level of crime and disorder. It follows that any strategy to reduce crime and disorder should include the closest possible monitoring of existing establishments and a rigorous policy of closing those that can be shown to be connected with a large number of offences.

Amendment No. 259A, which is grouped and also stands in my name, follows a similar train of thought. It proposes that the licensing authority should maintain records of crime and disorder at or in the vicinity of premises, as well as of ambulance calls to the premises. I do not envisage a great deal of work for the licensing authorities if the amendment is approved, because they would simply receive details from police and ambulance authorities in electronic form, to be accessed for the licensing authority's consideration where relevant representations were made against the renewal of a licence.

That would ensure that the licensing authority, not just the police, had the information about the level of crime linked to the premises, instead of being completely in the dark if for some reason—as in the case that I cited at the beginning of my speech—the police decided not to oppose renewal. At present, that is a serious gap in the Bill.

If the Minister can think of any other way to reduce crime and disorder through the policies of the licensing authority, I should like to hear about it. In the guidance, where premises licences are discussed, only one paragraph deals with the licensing objectives, paragraph 6.24, and that is concerned only with operating schedules. Paragraphs 6.70 to 6.74 deal with reviews of premises licenses, but those can arise only when the police have imposed a closure order. The guidance is clear that only actual convictions are to be

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considered in those reviews, but it is less clear whether it must be proved that the criminal conduct was a matter of policy or of negligence.

If the management allow under-age drinking or use of the premises for the sale of Class A drugs, for instance, those would be for consideration; but what if the offence was committed by someone on the premises or just outside? Would cases such as that of Mr Lee Bowyer and Mr Jonathan Woodgate, accused of grievous bodily harm and affray outside the Majestyk club in Leeds, be taken into consideration, or would the licensing authority have to ignore the Lee Bowyer case because he was acquitted?

I hinted earlier at one other question: the National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy is supposed to report in May. The health Minister, Hazel Blears, told me that there would be an interim analysis paper by the end of last month, summarising the results of the consultation that took place between October last year and mid-January 2003.

Here is yet another example of the lack of joined-up government, because we have no idea what views were expressed about the role of the Licensing Bill in combating alcohol harm. Licensing was not mentioned at all in the consultation document, but some of the representations undoubtedly made the point that late-night drinking is linked to crime. Perhaps it is inconvenient, from the Government's point of view, for that to be highlighted while your Lordships are considering the Bill.

It is commonsense that the licensing authority should be entitled to consider all the information on record about crimes on licensed premises or in their vicinity. Without that, they will not have the means to use the licensing system to reduce crime and disorder. I beg to move.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I support the amendments. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will not mind my saying that I discussed the amendments with him. I asked him whether they might place a significant additional burden on the police. I was satisfied from our discussion that that would not be the case.

Given that, I believe that the amendments are sensible and, in essence, would be for the benefit of all. To say more would be to repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, although the intention behind the amendments is both clear and laudable, the Government must resist them for several reasons. First, they are unnecessary. Where the police are notified of an application for a premises licence or club premises certificate, a variation of the same, or a provisional statement, or where they call for a review of a premises licence or club premises certificate or contribute to one on the grounds of any of the licensing objectives, they will have access to the relevant history of the premises and will be able to present the facts of the case to the hearing. That history need not be

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limited to the three-month period that would be achieved by Amendment No. 249A. Furthermore, Clause 180 makes specific provision for the police as a responsible authority to make available the information that they hold,

    "for the purposes of facilitating the exercise of the authority's functions".

In addition, Clauses 17, 29, 50, 70 and 85 provide for regulations to be made on the procedures for dealing with applications for the granting of, or review of, premises licences or club premises certificates and for the making of a provisional statement. The Bill states expressly that those regulations will require the applicant to advertise his application and to give a notice containing details of it to each responsible authority and such other persons as may be prescribed. It further states that, where the application is for a review of a premises licence or club premises certificate, such notice must be given to the holder of the premises licence or club premises certificate. Furthermore, in the case of a review of a premises licence or club premises certificate, it makes clear that those regulations will require the licensing authority to advertise the application and to invite representations about it to be made to the authority by any interested parties and responsible authorities. The first part of Amendment No. 249A is, therefore, unnecessary—it is already provided for by the Bill as it stands.

The amendments would also place significant additional burdens on the police, the ambulance service and the licensing authority. They would place further pressures on the police, in particular. I fear that they may entail diverting resources from dealing with crime and disorder into handling another significant set of paperwork.

Finally, the amendments adopt something of a shotgun tactic. Not all incidents of crime and disorder, or ambulance call-outs, will relate to how premises are run, or the effect of liberalisation of licensing laws. A major component of crime at licensed premises, particularly in tourist areas, is theft of, for example, mobile phones, wallets and handbags. It is a cognitive leap to explain the apparently higher number of calls to central London police by the presence of more licensed premises. Many factors may be involved, including the large number of tourists, on whom criminals prey.

Another large part of crime committed at licensed premises comprises threats, intimidation and violence against licensees. It would not be appropriate to seek to link those aspects of crime to a premises licence or club premises certificate. My point is that requiring the police and the licensing authority to record every incident of crime and disorder that may relate to licensed premises imposes huge extra burdens for little gain. Fraud by bar staff is another example of relatively common criminal activity that would appear to have little bearing on a licensing application. What is important is that the police can make all the relevant facts available. Under the new system they will already be able to do that.

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Similar arguments apply to requiring the ambulance service to record all calls to licensed premises and to provide details to the licensing authority. Many of those calls will be entirely unrelated to the activities carried on at licensed premises.

A review of a premises licence does not have to wait for a closure order. Clause 50 allows any interested party or responsible authority to apply for a review at any time on a ground related to the licensing objectives.

We have discussed Amendment No. 259A with ACPO. Its view is that a requirement that local authorities maintain records of crime at or around licensed premises would duplicate work that the police already undertake, and that the amendment is therefore unnecessary. It is also concerned that it could give local authorities a crime and disorder role that properly lies with the police.

I hope that, in the light of what I have said, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Baroness has discussed the amendment with the police. I have done so. I can tell her that no extra work would be involved. The police already record reported crimes on computer. As I said earlier, it would be a simple matter of electronic transfer for them to give the information to the local authorities.

Admittedly, the information would not be analysed in such detail as the noble Baroness hinted at. There would be no indication of whether particular crimes were linked to activity over which management staff of premises had control. The local authorities, in interpreting the figures, would have to exercise judgment. Given that the noble Baroness says that they will receive the information called for in this amendment in some form, I do not see why they should not have it as a matter of regular practice. If local authorities built up experience of evaluating police reports and determining the proportion of crimes attributable to the management of premises, they would become as good at exercising that judgment as one would wish. In any case, if local authorities receive reports of crime and disorder that they must consider when deciding whether to award or renew a licence, they must exercise a certain amount of judgment on the figures presented to them by the police.

Obviously, we shall not solve the problem this evening. I am afraid that it is another piece of unfinished business to which we will have to return. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, warmly for her kind support. No doubt we will discuss the matter again before the next stage. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 250 not moved.]

Clause 189 [Index of defined expressions]:

[Amendments Nos. 251 to 259 not moved.]

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[Amendment No. 259A not moved.]

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