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Baroness Amos: My Lords, the aim is to ensure that Europe is contributing fully to global security. We all know what the challenges are; for example, shortfalls in key crisis management capabilities in Europe. We need EU action not only to add value but to be fully coherent. With respect to the opportunity for Parliament to debate this, I am sure that the noble Lord could ask a Question or table a Motion for a short debate if he wishes to do so.
Lord Bowness: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. The presidency conclusions are full of warm words about enlargement. Does she agree that, after the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, there cannot be further enlargement without treaty change, and that without the prospect of treaty change, this gives unfortunate messages to Croatia, in particular, and the nations of the western Balkans, generally? Bearing in mind how long it takes to reach agreement on change, should we not be actively preparing so that if and when those nations are ready to join, the European Union is ready to admit them?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the European Council reaffirmed that the existing commitment on enlargement will be honoured. As I said earlier, enlargement has spread security and prosperity across Europe. The General Affairs and External Relations Council called in December for a debate on further enlargement during 2006. That debate started at the June Council and will continue under the Finnish presidency. We will, of course, actively participate in that. I take entirely the concerns expressed by the noble Lord about the message we send to others in the queue, as it were. He will know, however, that we are very committed to the enlargement process.
Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, there are those of usI am one of themwho are quite pleased if a Council meeting is a non-event. That is not because we do not want anything to happen, but because it is one of the weaknesses of Europe that there always has to be some enormous projectunless there is an enormous project, things go wrong. That is certainly not my view, so I would have no word of criticism on that.
There remains an institutional issue, on which I would like to hear an even clearer view from the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. Transparency is not quite the right word, when one talks about how the Council of Ministers of the European Union should operate. With the peculiar language that was introduced at the beginning of the process, in the
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Treaty of Rome, the Council of Ministers is in part a legislature. Incidentally, the Commission is, in part, a parliament. It has some of the parliamentary rights that the US Congress hasmaking proposals, even a monopoly, in theory, of making proposals.
When you have a legislature, in a democratic context, it is not about transparency, it is an utter necessity that this legislature meets in public and can be checked by the public. Can one be sure that this traditional British position is still upheld, and that nothing occurred at the recent Council meeting which detracts from that understanding of how legislatures should operate?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, that certainly my understanding and reading of the conclusions and of what happened at the recent European Council is that accountability remains at the heart of the European Union. I accept entirely the points made by the noble Lord that the Council of Ministers and indeed the Union itself have different and overlapping roles. That makes accountability more rather than less important. The onus, therefore, is on all European Union countries to take these institutional mattersand in particular these accountability mattersvery seriously.
"DEFINITIONS OF "ENCLOSED" AND "SUBSTANTIALLY ENCLOSED"
(1) For the purposes of section 2
"enclosed" means having a ceiling or roof and, except for doors, windows and passageways, being wholly enclosed, whether permanently or temporarily;
"substantially enclosed" means having a ceiling or roof and, except for doors, windows and passageways, being substantially closed, whether permanently or temporarily.
(2) In determining whether premises are "substantially enclosed", no account is to be taken of openings in which there are doors, windows or other fittings that can be opened or shut.
(3) Premises shall be taken to be "substantially enclosed" if
(a) the opening in the premises has an area, or
(b) if there is more than one, both or all of those openings have an aggregate area,
which is less than thirty per cent of the area of the walls, including other structures serving the purposes of walls, which constitute the perimeter of the premises.
(4) Where an opening is in, or consists of the absence of, such walls or other structures, or a part of them, their area shall be measured for the purposes of subsection (3) as if it included the area of the opening."
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The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 3 is essentially probing in nature. In a sense, it is quite tightly drawn. Since we had a pretty free-ranging debate on the previous amendment, I will keep specific to this particular amendment, in the hope that your Lordships will follow suit. The key point about this amendment is that, originally, the conditions for the erection of any form of building or attachment to premises were on the face of the Bill. It was then withdrawn from the Bill and put into regulationsand, of course, we do not yet know what the regulations are. In addition, we have Clause 4, which gives the Government virtually a blank cheque. That is because they can designate anywhere, in effect, non-smoking.
In addition, the definition of these attachments has been changed. Originally it was put down, in consultation terms, as 70 per cent of the notional roof and wall area, and now we are told it is to be 50 per cent only of the notional roof and wall area. I am sure the Government will recognise that no one in the commercial world will spend a penny on planning any form of extension or new building, unless they know the conditions beforehand. While the Minister in Grand Committee maintained that the trade was broadly well aware of what the regulations were about, there has been evidence sinceparticularly, one has to say, from the smaller licensed premisesthat it is singularly unaware. That is a concern, because it is the smaller licensed premiseseither in the rural or perhaps the more industrialised areas of our country, where perhaps they even have no car parkthat will face real problems in providing anything outside the main pub.
Any trader will almost certainly have to obtain planning permission. It is quite likely that a significant number will have to get listed building consent. If you go for planning permission, at a minimum, that has to go out for consultation, in whatever field you are in. At that point there can be objections, or the committee can decide to delay it for another two months, three months or whatever it may be. Just because you put in for planning permission and you are told your case is coming up in two or three months' time, there is no certainty that you will know at the end of that time whether your proposals have been successful.
In Grand Committee, the Minister also described the example of Scotland and stated in broad principle that it had been successful. The more one digs, however, the easier it is to see that the big boys were successful and those who hit the most difficulties were the small boys. In addition, since Grand Committee we have heard about the experiences of not just the licensed trade but others with the Licensing Act 2003. We have heard about the genuine difficulties that it has caused by the continually changing interpretations between one local authority and another.
All this leads one to believe that, if the Government believe in joined-up government, as I genuinely believe they do, one must give the trade time to undertake the changesthere is no argument about the changes going through now; they seem likely to go through. The combination of a failure to provide clarity
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through essential definitions in the Billin other words, they are still in the regulationsand the insistence of Ministers on bringing the smoke-free provisions into force in 2007, one year earlier than was originally proposed, will cause great difficulty. I wish to be objective about this. If 25 per cent of people want to smoke, and if landlords and other owners of licensed premises want to make provision for these customers, it seems only sensible to give them a reasonable length of time in which to do it. My amendment tries to give the Government a means of achieving that.
I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us either that the regulations are imminent, in which case that is some progress, or, if they are not, perhaps that he will seriously consider whether he is nailing his flag to the mast of the middle of 2007. He will recognise that there are genuine difficulties. Whether it is late 2007 or early 2008 does not really matter: the most important dimension is to get this right and to ensure that smaller publicans, in particular, who do not exist on a very large margin of income, have an opportunity to amend their premises to meet these needs. I beg to move.
Lord Monson: My Lords, this amendment broadly brings the Bill back to the Government's original position, as set out in their consultation document of 20 June 2005almost exactly a year ago today. Members of the licensing trade believe that the original scheme was less inimical to their profitability and viability and less inimical to the well-being of their customers, 45 per cent of whom apparently smoke to a greater or lesser degree, than the altered formula in the Bill. Why did the Government change their mind?
A clue to the Government's reasoning emerged in Grand Committee on 24 April, when the Minister extolled the desirability of ensuring "consistency with Scottish legislation". Why should there be such consistency? After all, just a few moments earlier the Minister had spoken of the desirability of allowing the Welsh to make their own decision on what precisely constitutes "enclosed" and "partially enclosed" spaces. Why are the English, alone in the United Kingdom, treated in such a cavalier fashion by this Government, or, perhaps I should say more accurately, in such a Cromwellian fashion?
If the Government are unwilling to accept this amendment, will they, as an alternative, consider accepting my Amendment No. 46we are likely to come to it next Mondaywhich provides for the regulations to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure? Technical though they may be, too much is at stake both in terms of the continued viability of many licensed premises and the comfort and well-being of literally millions of their customers to allow these regulations to be nodded through under the negative procedure.
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