HC Deb 24 June 2003 vol 407 cc1004-22

Lords amendments and reasons, considered.

8.19 pm
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn)

I beg to move, That this House insists on its amendment No. 62 to which the Lords have disagreed, and disagrees with the amendment No. 62A proposed by the Lords in lieu thereof.

In speaking on this issue, I will also speak on the proposed Government amendment (a) to the Bill in lieu of the proposed amendment by the Lords.

What many people do not seem to realise is that the Licensing Bill is not an extension of the scope of entertainment licensing. Generally speaking, nothing that does not need a licence or other authorisation now will need one under the Bill. What the Bill does is make it much cheaper and easier to get a licence where one is needed.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Caborn

No. I am just laying out the case. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.

The Bill is a combination of safety law and licensing that keeps people safe at entertainment venues of any size. Taking away licensing would undermine fundamentally the ability to protect the public. So Parliament traditionally has taken the view that it is necessary for professionals such as health and safety officers and fire officers to advise licensing authorities on the adequacy of the arrangements in place at any venue.

Lords amendment No. 62A would totally undermine the ability of the experts to assess public safety across a huge swathe of entertainment venues. For example, Westminster city council has written to the Department to point out that 62 per cent. of its entertainment venues would escape any kind of scrutiny at all under amendment No. 62A. In our view, that is completely unacceptable. It would take public safety out of the hands of the experts and put it in those of amateurs.

Peter Bottomley

I thank the Minister for giving way, and I think that the House understands that many parts of the Bill are acceptable and worthwhile. The objections—from people outside, from the other place and from some people in this House—have to do with whether the Government are railroading through proposals when an adjustment would be much more acceptable.

For example, at the end of the previous Commons debate the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), who was then responsible for the Bill, answered in the affirmative when I asked whether I needed a licence for a church event in my own house, at which there would be music rather than poetry reading. That is the sort of event that has got caught up unnecessarily. I am speaking not so much for myself as for people like me, and that is the problem: many more people will be caught by the Bill than the Minister has acknowledged.

Mr. Caborn

I shall clear up some of those points as I go, and explain why the amendment has been moved. However, serious matters of public safety are involved, and I should have thought that they were crucial to this House.

As a slight aside, amendment No. 62A's sole concession to public nuisance is that any event to which the exemption applies should finish by 11.30 pm. Unfortunately, it does nothing to prevent an event starting at 11.31 pm and continuing for 23 hours arid 59 minutes. Therefore, examination of the amendment shows that it does not achieve what it sets out to achieve. I urge this House to throw out Lords amendment No. 62A, which we believe to be dangerous and defective; otherwise, the House will have to be held to account if there is a serious accident at a venue exempted from the proposed regulations, and if a death occurs as a result.

However, I fully recognise that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Even with all the safeguards in the Bill—and with the additional work that we are doing in the statutory guidance, with the help of performers' representatives, to limit the potential for licensing authorities to act disproportionately—many venue operators, particularly pub owners, are fearful that if they tick the box and apply for permission to put on entertainment, the licensing authority will hit them for thousands of pounds worth of unnecessary conditions.

So we have proposed a concessionary amendment, in lieu of Lords amendment No. 62A, which places further restrictions on the ability of licensing authorities to apply conditions on premises licences that authorise the provision of certain forms of regulated entertainment.

I shall now list those premises to which the effect of the new clause is restricted. First, the new clause applies where a premises licence or club premises certificate is in force authorising the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises and the performance of live music or of dance or the provision of entertainment facilities for making music or dancing or entertainment of a similar description. Secondly, it applies to premises that are used primarily for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises. It therefore covers mainly pubs and bars. Thirdly, it applies to premises where the regulated entertainment that I mentioned earlier is provided when the premises are open for the supply of alcohol for consumption there. Fourthly, it applies to premises where the premises licence or certificate stipulates a permitted capacity limit for the premises of no more than 200 people.

What that means in practice is that, although conditions may be imposed on a premises licence or certificate in relation to any of the licensing objectives, they will only have effect in two circumstances—where they relate to the prevention of crime and disorder or to public safety, or where they have been stated to apply or have been imposed following a review of a premises licence, and relate to any of the licensing objectives.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

I have just been mulling over what the Minister said about the great fire risk incurred when music is being played. Would the risk be any less if the same people were watching a widescreen television, or simply drinking on the premises?

Mr. Caborn

No. We are talking about a licence that covers any equipment that is used. The Musicians Union has objected to the proposals to some extent, but it advises its members to use greater care than that set out in statute when dealing with electrical goods, and so on. What we are trying to do is ensure that premises are safe, and the Bill will give comfort to the general public on that score. As I said, accepting the Lords amendment would mean that 62 per cent. of premises in the Westminster area would be exempt from the conditions ion the Bill—conditions that we think are basic to public safety.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Caborn

I will in a moment.

In effect, this is a 'one strike and you're out" policy. Operators can benefit from the disapplication of conditions—except for reasons of crime and disorder, or public safety—provided that they do not abuse the privilege, and end up being reviewed. So if an operator allows the music and dancing that he or she is putting on to give rise to issues of public nuisance, the licence or certificate can be reviewed and conditions necessary for the promotion of the relevant licensing objectives attached.

Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

What my hon. Friend the Minister is saying appears to be very helpful to those involved in traditional folk events, which take place in small pubs. However, when he talks about 200 people, does he mean that they are all inside a pub, or must the capacity of beer gardens also be taken into account? That capacity is often quite difficult to estimate.

Mr. Caborn

No. I think that the common-sense approach would be that the proposal applies to the space inside the premises, which is where the people whom we are trying to protect are to be found. My understanding is that the licence applies to the premises, but if a correction is necessary I shall let my hon. Friend know.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)

Just before the Minister sat down he used the term "public nuisance", but the only conditions in Government amendment (a) that I can see are the prevention of crime and disorder and public safety. It says nothing about public nuisance.

Mr. Caborn

If that is the case, we shall revisit the matter. As far as I am concerned, however, public nuisance is covered by the amendment to which I am speaking at the moment.

I hope that there is a certain amount of support in the House for the four proposals that the Government are making. The Opposition often tell us to get shot of red tape, and with this Bill we are bringing six licensing provisions together in one proposal. The basic principles are set out very clearly in the Bill. They are the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. I should have thought that those aims would have gained the Opposition's support, as they consistently ask the Government to get rid of red tape. The amendment that we are discussing, and the Bill as a whole, will do just that.

8.30 pm
Mr. Moss


Mr. Caborn

I shall not give way again.

I realise that some people will be deeply concerned about restricting the application of conditions imposed on a licence or certificate, other than those related to crime, disorder or public safety, until a review takes place. The other licensing objectives are important. I share those concerns. Live music and dancing can, and do, give rise to public nuisance, and there are also issues about protecting children from harm.

However, the Government have taken the view that by limiting the concession to premises that primarily supply alcohol and are subject to a condition that the permitted capacity is 200, coupled with the review procedure, the disapplication of conditions other than those relating to public safety and the prevention of crime and disorder can be justified.

I shall say a little about why we have not acted to disapply conditions relating to public safety and the prevention of crime and disorder. On crime and disorder, the police have made strong representations to us that the legislation must deal with three issues in particular: guns, drugs and bands that incite crowds to violence. The first two matters speak for themselves. The third relates to certain bands that espouse extreme right-wing values and whose performances often directly encourage violence, fuelled by the worst examples of racist hatred, among the audience. That is a major problem in some cities and the police, rightly, need powers to take preventive action.

On public safety. the case is straightforward: people will be injured or die if we ignore it. Although nuisance can be a blight on people's lives, it is unlikely to result in the death of those affected, and if an operator acts inconsiderately towards his neighbours and causes a nuisance, the premises licence or club premises certificate can be reviewed.

That concession will give responsible authorities the ability to act to address public safety and the prevention of crime and disorder up front, while, for practical purposes, the other licensing objectives will be in abeyance pending a review. I repeat that the Government feel strongly about these issues. We want to retain proper protections for local residents against irresponsible operators whose activities give rise to issues of public nuisance and we want to ensure the protection of children from harm. At the same time, the provisions will act to provide a further focus for licensing authorities, in imposing only necessary and proportionate conditions.

Mr. Whittingdale

The Minister puts great stress on public safety and, of course, we share his concern that nothing must be done that would endanger the public. However, will he explain the point already raised by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath)? Why do the same considerations not apply in the case of a pub where 200 people may be watching a World cup final on a large screen? Surely, the same public safety issues would arise, yet they are not covered by the Bill.

Mr. Caborn

We do not take that judgment. Our judgment is laid out in the amendment. It is as simple as that. We believe that our amendment is proportionate and necessary to address the Lords amendment and to answer some of the concerns raised in debate in the other place, as well as reflecting representations that we have received from local authorities and the police.

Hon. Members do not need to take only my word for that. The Association of Chief Police Officers has written to the Department to protest in strong terms against the dangerous Lords amendment. We have made that letter available to Opposition Front-Bench Members, and I hope that they will have the sense to take full note of its contents. ACPO said that the Bill already strikes a balance that it is happy to support. It notes that exempting premises from licensing altogether would deprive the police of the opportunity to take measures to deal with problems that may arise through nuisance, crime and disorder. Finally, it indicates that the correct approach is one that tailors conditions to the level of risk. The combination of the Bill, as drafted, the statutory guidance and the amendment that I am asking the House to accept achieves that risk-based approach and I ask the House to support the motion.

Mr. Moss

I welcome the Minister on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box after responsibility for the Bill was added to his burgeoning portfolio. It is tempting to point out that he is the third Minister in as many weeks to take responsibility for what is turning out to be rather a poisoned chalice. I hope that, unlike his colleague in the other place, he has not had his letterheads printed prematurely. I wonder how much it cost for the former Minister to change his letterheads. As we have not yet seen the current Minister's letterheads, we do not know whether he has taken that road.

Commiserations as well as congratulations would seem to be in order. The only consolation for the Minister is that he will not have to undergo much more of this particular torture, because the Government will either lose the Bill in a few weeks' time, or they will see the eminent sense of their lordships' amendments and come to a sensible compromise before their lordships take another vote, which will, I understand, be a week on Thursday.

The amendment deals with the vexed question of small events exemptions for music and dance. It would be salutary to remind ourselves of the story so far. When the Bill was in the other place, their lordships added a small premises exemption that the Government threw out in Committee in this place. The Government rejected a similar amendment on Report in this place. Their lordships duly reinstated their provision last week and the Government are only now making their first attempt to find a solution to the problem.

I stress that in all our debates on the Bill, this is the Government's first effort to address the real and continuing concerns of a huge swathe of people who rely on music, not only functionally for employment, but also culturally. The Government's proposal goes a little way, but it does not satisfy the requirements of those people. The Government have only themselves to blame. They seem to have set their face against reason and logic.

We need to remind ourselves of the background to the proposals. For many decades, live music has been provided, without entertainment licences, at tens of thousands of private events and in thousands of private members' clubs, without causing significant problems for the police. For more than 40 years, the two-in-a-bar exemption has applied in more than 110,000 liquor-licensed premises. To the best of my knowledge and that of those involved in both licensing and entertainment, all those who spoke in Committee and all those who have lobbied the Opposition on the Bill, the police have never made an issue of the two-in-a-bar rule. The police made no representations on the rule during the recent consultation period.

We face the prospect of none in a bar, and the interests of live music, folk clubs and their ilk, including folk dancing, will be not be further forwarded by the amendment. What would the Bill mean without an exemption? Without a licence under the Bill, there can be a jukebox in a bar; big screens and a public address system could be set up anywhere to broadcast music, sport or anything else, but putting on a performance by a solo pianist or a string quartet would be a criminal offence. Even providing a piano for the public to make their own entertainment would be an offence, unless licensed. That is the consequence of a whole new category of offences introduced for the provision of unlicensed "entertainment facilities". The provisions are direct discrimination against live music; they are obviously nonsense and obviously unjust.

Of course, the Minister has made great play of the fact that the Government are attempting to restore proportionality, but the only way to do that is to introduce a de minimis exemption. True to form, the main theme of the Minister's argument has been to try to play up the public safety arguments against the small-events exemption. Again, the exemption for big-screen entertainment and stand-up comedy exposes the weakness of that argument.

Opposition Members have twice questioned the Minister on what he perceives to he the difference with a crowd of people—not just 200, but sometimes 500 or more—packed to the gunwales in a pub, cheering on a football match, but the Minister had no answer to that direct question. How is it all right to provide those facilities without an entertainment licence, but even unamplified live performance cannot be adequately regulated unless licensed?

On previous occasions, the Government have talked about the terrible fires, caused by fireworks, that occurred in a music club in the United States, but that is a complete red herring. It should be pointed out that a pyrotechnics licence was required in those circumstances in the USA, but it appears that the club did not possess one.

A pub landlord could throw a party in his garden, with fire-eaters, knife throwers, a bouncy castle, cables trailing to an air compressor, and a powerful CD player, and that would be exempt from entertainment licensing under the Bill. However, adding a featured, unamplified performance by a solo guitarist would be a criminal offence unless licensed.

The Government have prayed in aid the views of the police, not just in the debate this evening, but on many previous occasions. Why have they circulated the letter from Assistant Chief Constable Taylor of Greater Manchester police headquarters, who is responsible for licensing issues, to the Liberal Democrat Members who have contributed to the debates in Committee and myself? Their lordships first voted for the small-premises or events exemption back in early March—14 weeks ago—so why did not the police bother to air their concerns publicly before now? Why, at the eleventh hour, do we receive that letter, bringing down the wrath of Gideon on everyone, when the police have had ample opportunity to raise their concerns at an earlier stage?

The Minister has alluded to some of that letter's content, and I should like to go through it because he used it as the basis on which to drive forward the public safety issue. Speaking of Lords amendment No. 62, the assistant chief constable says: It allows live music events to take place at premises which are not licensed and in respect of which, therefore, there has been no opportunity to ensure that the necessary measures are in place to protect the public in accordance with all the licensing objectives. So the police are saying that, unless somewhere is licensed, we cannot ensure that all the licensing objectives are adhered to. Let us remind ourselves of what those objectives are, since the Minister has alluded to them. As listed in clause 5(2)(a) to (d), they are: preventing crime and disorder; public safety; amenity and environment for residents, which covers things like noise and disturbance; and, finally, protecting children from harm.

The letter from the police goes on to say: As the premises may not be licensed, the police would be deprived of the opportunity to take measures to deal with problems which may arise through nuisance, crime and disorder. However, the police say nothing about public safety or protecting children from harm, so the Minister and the Department seem to have been rather choosy in selecting what to include in their amendment and to have ignored quite a lot of what the police have recommended.

8.45 pm

Finally, the police go on to talk about live music and the heavy metal bands that presumably frequent the north-west. I am afraid that we do not seem to have them in East Anglia.

Mr. Whittingdale

We do.

Mr. Moss

Fine, but I have not come across them.

The police are worried about the differences between heavy metal music and the normal sort of pianist or quartet music. They say: These differences extend not only to the level of noise emanating from the venue (which could be a venue outdoors) but also"— this is how they link such things with crime and disorder— to the type of clientele attending the event". ACPO's argument for rejecting the exemption, as it would apply to unlicensed premises, is essentially that, because heavy metal bands exist, the provision in such places of all other live music, even an unamplified solo performance, must be a criminal offence unless licensed. That is indeed taking the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut and it is not sufficient justification for throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Where is the Government's flexibility? Where is any sign of lateral thinking? For example, it would be perfectly possible to introduce a notification requirement where electrical amplification is used for live performance in places that were not already licensed for alcohol or other regulated entertainments. If that notification were to the local authority and the police, as with temporary event notices, that should allow for intervention using existing health and safety and noise nuisance legislation. Of course, the police would be in the know—they would know that such things were going on—and could intervene. In such circumstances, performances without notification could be made an offence. Perhaps police and local authority powers of closure could be extended to those events, similar to the powers proposed in the Anti-social Behaviour Bill, which we have just discussed, and existing police closure powers for licensed premises.

Of course, the hours issue is another red herring, repeated by the Minister this evening. The police are worried, for some reason, that the amendment would allow people to close their premises at 11.30 and reopen them at 11.31. Well, frankly, if the Government were positive in seeking a solution to that problem, a simple change to the wording could be made so that the premises could open for a given number of hours between 10 in the morning and 11.30 at night on the same day. Although the Minister has made a big issue of that, as did his colleague in the other place, the problem could be easily overcome.

The Minister has prayed in aid the letter from the assistant chief constable, but the police seem to be catching the Government's habit of selective amnesia. Why, in ACPO's recent letter, does it not remind the Government of its written representations to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, warning that televised sporting events were quite frequently a source of disorder and should, in its view, be made licensable entertainments? Why has no notice of that been taken either in the letter from the police or by the Minister from Dispatch Box this evening?

Let me now turn to Government amendment (a), entitled "dancing and live music in pubs etc." Perhaps we should appear grateful that dancing has been linked with live music, but we believe that the whole proposal is seriously flawed. Frankly, it is irrational. First, it can apply only if the pub already has a licence for musical entertainment and, as I said a moment ago, that includes dance in the new meaning. The biggest single point about the need for a de minimis exemption is to avoid having to get such a licence in the first place. Having to get one and then disapplying certain conditions in certain cases is not a solution.

Secondly, the restrictions lifted might include those most likely to be deemed necessary: if any, those on noise levels and amplification. The amendment, in subsections (3) and (4), deals only with restrictions applying when there are considerations of public safety and crime and disorder. In my intervention on the Minister, I mentioned subsection (3)(a) and (b). ACPO, however, wanted to tighten up on crime and disorder and noise but not on public safety. Noise is not to feature, however, as a ground for imposing conditions. Where is the consistency? The Minister let it slip in his speech that public nuisance was going to be used as a condition, but it is not in the amendment. Therefore, as he said, he will have to go away and think about that again. Time, however, is running out.

Thirdly, if there is no permitted capacity either under the soon-to-be-repealed Fire Precautions Act 1971 or otherwise, the provisions cannot apply no matter how small the premises or the respective part used or to be used. It seems illogical to prevent premises with a permitted capacity of, say, 500 under the 1971 Act from putting on a musical entertainment for, say, only 200 people in the whole or just part of those premises. Why, after all this time, are the Government turning for help to the Fire Precautions Act 1971? This is the first time it has been mentioned in more than 60 hours of debate on the Bill in this House alone. One gets the impression that the Government are thrashing around in desperation to get themselves, if at all possible, off a substantial hook of their own making.

Although the margin of the vote in the other place last Thursday was the narrowest that it has been, I assure the Minister that considerably more support is available for new amendments that tighten up Lords amendment 62A to address the concerns about amplification, noise and even numbers. A great deal of good will exists, particularly on the Cross Benches, to find a compromise that still exempts live music at small events from the over-regulated burden of entertainment licensing. The Minister is new to his task, but if he and the Government want the Bill to be passed, certainly before the requirement to address the legal basis of licensing in the Welsh Assembly kicks in—in the autumn, I believe— further adjustment and compromise will be necessary.

One is compelled to ask whether the proposal in this amendment is a mere stalking horse, cynically designed to he unacceptable, to facilitate a spurious argument that the Government tried to meet the needs driving the small premises exemption. Reading between the lines, what the Government seem to be bending over backwards not to state explicitly is that the existing legislation of various Acts of Parliament may be sufficient—I have alluded to the Fire Precautions Act 1971—but that they do not trust certain people to implement those properly.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

I want to make it clear from the word "go" that I do not support the Lords amendment. Unlike Conservative Front-Bench Members, I support the police and I certainly speak up for local residents in my area. I was therefore hoping that the Government amendment would be an improvement on the Lords amendment, which it is. I regret to say, however, that it, in itself, is faulty. What may be a small event to us at a distance—an event where loud music comes out of small premises holding 200 people—is not small if one lives next door to it or across the road from it. We need to bear that in mind.

My principal concern about the Government amendment, which, as I said, is a vast improvement on the Lords amendment, is that, of the four licensing objectives in the overall Bill—prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and protection of children from harm—it exempts live music venues from the requirement not to be a public nuisance and the requirement to protect children from harm. I had assumed at first that that was just a slip, but it appears, from what my right hon. Friend the Minister said, to be deliberate. That seems strange because, of all the characteristics of loud music, being a public nuisance is the first one that springs to mind when we consider the licensing objectives. It is more likely to be a public nuisance than a threat to public safety, a threat to crime and disorder or a threat to harm children. I cannot understand why all four of the licensing objectives should not apply to such premises in the same way as they will apply to all other premises, especially given that loud music is likely to be a public nuisance above all else. I hope that when the Bill goes back to—or returns the House of Lords, we will be able to add public nuisance to the list of conditions that may be applied from the start.

My right hon. Friend the Minister put forward the alternative. He suggested that people must experience a public nuisance, go through months of trouble from some premises, go to the bother of making protestations and get the licensing body to examine the situation before it goes through a long procedure to drag the licensee before it. That could last for months on end while local residents' lives are made a misery. Given that most premises will be properly run and will not cause a nuisance, introducing a requirement that they must not be a public nuisance would not place a great burden on the bulk of them. If the requirement placed a burden on the wrong 'uns, that is exactly what we would want.

Nick Harvey (North Devon)

In some ways I am rather saddened that we are still debating this vexed issue even at such a late stage, although I am not especially surprised. It is the aspect of the entire Bill that has caused the most controversy and anxiety in the country. As the weeks and months have gone by, it is remarkable that the Government have shown no serious intent to address the issue. It has been raised on a wide front throughout the country, and the result of the Government's reluctance to sit down and examine the issue seriously is that we are still debating it at this late stage.

The problem goes back to the fundamental question of why it is necessary to license public entertainment at all. I listened to the Minister's predictions of doom, disaster and calamities for public safety if we do not have entertainment licensing for all events, however modest their scale. I cast my mind north of the border to Scotland where there is no public entertainment licensing, yet I see no signs of the death, disaster, disease and pestilence that the Minister anticipates if we do not operate the regime in England. The Government have raised a completely false spectre.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham)

The hon. Gentleman says that there is no control on public entertainment in Scotland, but a licensing authority must put a condition on what covers public entertainment.

Nick Harvey

I say most emphatically that I did not claim that there was no control on public entertainment in Scotland. The point that has been made consistently during the passage of the Bill is that there are plenty of other controls on public entertainment, so there is no need to add the licensing regime that the Bill will implement. It is precisely because there are so many other ways to control public entertainments and public safety at them that the provision is so unnecessary.

If it were true that the Lords amendment were deficient or offensive to the Government, I would have expected Ministers to propose sensible modifications to it. However, the Government amendment does no such thing. The Government have missed the point of the Lords amendment—either deliberately or by mischance. The points that were rehearsed this evening were the same as those made in Committee and on Report.

There is a problem regarding the treatment of a venue if a wide-screen television shows either a football match to a rowdy crowd, which might include supporters of both teams—depending on the match and the location of the premises—or a pop concert that chucks out music at a high level of decibels. The anomaly between how those two events will be treated remains an essential problem that has not been addressed.

9 pm

The Minister read extracts from the letter circulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers. It is worth turning our attention to one or two matters raised in it. One concern that the police articulated is that the exemption as framed by the House of Lords would apply to all premises anywhere, not just to those that already have a liquor licence or premises licence of some description. Surely it would be more constructive for the Government to respond to the Lords amendment by modifying it so that the small events exemption applies only to premises that already have a premises licence. The police would have the power to order a closure and the licence holder would fear that the licence might not be renewed if there were recurrent instances of entertainments that were occurring as a result of the exemption and were causing a nuisance in the vicinity.

As the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) said, if anyone is seriously arguing that the wording of the Lords amendment is deficient because events that started at 11.31 pm are not covered, it is not beyond the wit of parliamentary draftsmen to remedy that and draft a modified amendment. I agree with the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) that Government amendment (a) is bizarre. Quite apart from the fact that it does not remedy the problem and is not a concession, it is also flawed in the way that he suggested. One would expect the premises licence to cover all four of the Bill's objectives. The idea that we suddenly drop a couple of them in the case of small entertainments is bizarre.

However, the key problem with the Government amendment is, as the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire said, that it applies only if someone has an entertainment licence. The entire point of the exemption proposed by the other place is to get around the need to have an entertainment licence, which is, in any case, unnecessary for the reasons that I touched on and as we know from the experience in Scotland. The Government have not made a concession. They have not begun to address the purpose of the House of Lords amendment.

Mr. Heath

What did my hon. Friend make of the Minister's bold assertion at the beginning of his speech that nothing would need a licence that did not need one before? Is it not transparently obvious that two people singing in a bar did not need a licence before and now they will?

Nick Harvey

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the point on which I wished to finish. The Minister's assertion that nothing will require a licence under the Bill that did not require one previously is self-evidently nonsense. A host of things will require licensing that did not before, not least the sort of events that the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) mentioned. There was a useful de minimis exemption in previous legislation. I understand why in this day and age it is necessary to find something better and less arbitrary than the two-in-a-bar rule. The Government will have to spend the next few days scratching around to find such a de minimis exemption or we will get into an extended stand-off with the other place.

Peter Bottomley

To be fair to the Minister, he said that not many things would be caught by licensing that were not caught before. The Official Report will show whether or not I am right, but it is not my job to support the Minister.

I want to return to what his hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) said at column 180 of the Official Report on 16 June. He said that if people are charged an admission fee for an event and if drinks are paid for, a temporary entertainment licence is needed. That will affect not just Church or political party events but any event organised by a voluntary organisation where people, out of the goodness of their heart, say, "Come in and use our house, premises or barn for an event to raise funds for a good cause."

Temporary entertainment licences are not the precise subject of the amendment, so I shall briefly remind the Minister that we understand the arguments about strip bars and all the other arguments used in the other place and, occasionally, the Commons.

The Government should not rely either on throwing out the Lords amendment or on any technical defect to carry on without thinking. I hope, whatever the result of tonight's vote, that the Minister will ask his officials to assist the Government in helping the other place and the Commons to get this right. Modification is needed.

There may be too many Labour Members in the House tonight for the Opposition to win the vote, but that is no justification for doing things wrong, when it is relatively easy to do them right.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster)

I endorse the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley), as there is a great danger that we are rushing the provision through.

I wish to address the grave concerns raised by Conservative Members. From a constituency perspective, I am particularly worried about the amendment to exempt premises serving fewer than 200 people from measures dealing with public nuisance and the need to preserve children from harm whenever the premises are open. I share the grave concerns of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) about the Lords amendment. However, I accept the case for that amendment presented by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss)— at least it had the advantage of ensuring that events finished by 11.30 pm instead of going on until any time, as is now being proposed.

The Minister was disingenuous when discussing Westminster city council's objections to the Lords amendment, as 62 per cent. of premises accommodate fewer than 200 people. Westminster city council is even more concerned about the proposals that we are discussing tonight, as are the many local residents and residents' associations with which I, like the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, have worked closely. The majority of licensed premises in central London accommodate fewer than 200 people, and the noise nuisance consequences of any entertainment, which could be music or dancing but under the sweeping nature of the amendment could also include the nude entertainment that is part and parcel, albeit a small part, of local entertainment in Soho, would be exempt. We must look at what will happen in practice. All that residents can do is suffer public nuisance, then call for a review. Only then can they ask a licensing authority to disregard the exemption.

It is bizarre, to put it mildly, that the amendment is being rushed through. There is less than 24 hours to consider it, and there was probably not much more time for the hapless officials in the Department to prepare it. I hope that, even at this late hour, the Minister will think twice, otherwise I fear that the matter will ping-pong between the Commons and another place.

I spoke to Westminster city council as a matter of urgency late this afternoon, and its reaction was not enthusiastic. It feels that the provision is complicated and reactionary, and would put even more pressure on it. The same would apply to the London borough of Camden and other central London authorities, which would not have the necessary support or resources. We discussed the transitional arrangements on Report, and a vote took place, which we could not win. I know that the matter will be discussed again in another place. I hope that the Minister will think twice about this amendment, which I suspect was rushed through and which promises to be extremely damaging.

Mr. Caborn

I shall respond to hon. Members' legitimate concerns. From the debate, it sounded as though no exemptions had been made, but that is not so. During the passage of the Bill, exemptions have been made for places of public religious worship, church halls, village halls, community centres, schools and sixth form colleges. Further exemptions have been made for incidental light music, performers have been decriminalised, and statutory guidance is to be developed.

I can tell the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss), who spoke for the official Opposition, that the reason the police have not objected before is that there was no need for them to object. They fully supported what the Government were doing on the matter. As we tried to meet some of the concerns expressed in the House and in another place, we moved away from our original position. It was only then that the police made representations. It would be foolhardy not to reflect on what they are saying. The hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey), who spoke for the Liberal party, may shake his head, but we believe it is right to take account of what the police say.

Local authorities also supported the Government's proposals, but because we moved away from our original position, they too have made representations, and it is legitimate for them to do so. In framing our amendment in lieu of the Lords amendment, we have tried to reflect their concerns and some of the concerns expressed in the House and the other place. That is why the police are now raising serious issues about drugs, their association with light music, the gun culture and the extreme violence promoted by some bands. I hope that hon. Members support what the police say and what we have tried to embody in the amendment. If they do not, they should get up and say so to the House.

May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) that if a premises is licensed, that applies to the whole of the premises, so the gardens would be covered by the licence?

I did not initially understand the remarks of the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) to the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) who dealt with the Bill previously. I gather that the hon. Gentleman asked—he will correct me if I am wrong—whether he would need a licence if he had a party to raise money and wanted to sell alcohol. Anybody selling alcohol needs a licence if they are doing that for profit. That is the law as it stands, and the Bill will not change it. If the hon. Gentleman wants to undertake major fundraising for the Conservative party and wants to sell liquor at a profit to raise money, he needs a licence.

The hon. Gentleman said that he wrote a letter. I will have it sought out and try to answer it in writing. If I have understood his point correctly, he would need a licence, even though the profit was for the Conservative party.

Peter Bottomley

At column 180, in the example to which I referred, I used both the party and the Church. I used the party first, to try to draw out of Ministers an answer that they have declined to give over all the months of the Bill's progress.

The Church example catches the point as well. If the Church is caught for the supply of alcohol if people pay for their tickets, and they are making the entertainment themselves, that is an exemption which the Minister ought to ask his officials to draft for him. I make that plea to him. Between now and the Bill's return to the other place, will he please read the letter and the earlier exchange, if necessary give me a call, and try to find a solution?

Mr. Caborn

If there is a genuine misunderstanding, we shall try to clear it up. I was present for the close of the previous debate, and as I understood the hon. Gentleman, he wanted to hold a fundraising activity that would involve the selling of alcohol to raise money for the Conservative party. If that is not the case, I shall consider the matter further. I shall try to be helpful to him, but that is the position as I understand it.

As to the great television debate on which we now all seem to be hooked, there is no doubt that there are some tremendous professionals in the House, but no representation has been made by any professional suggesting that licences should be issued in respect of televisions in rooms in public places. If representations are made by the professionals, we will consider them, but that is the information that I have been given. If the hon. Member for North Devon has different information, I have no doubt that he we will let us know.

Nick Harvey


Mr. Moss


9.15 pm
Mr. Caborn

I shall not give way, as I want to answer questions asked by other hon. Members.

I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has genuine concerns about the nuisance that he believes blights his constituency. I fully understand that. We are trying to be proportionate in the amendment. We are covering two areas, although there are four major areas in the Bill. We believe that the question of nuisance can be taken up in terms of the review. All that he would have to do is raise his concern with the licensing authorities in respect of such a review, which can be carried out by a statutory organisation or an individual.

Where we have concerns about public safety, we believe that action should be taken from the outset and that the approach should be proactive, rather than reactive. Nuisance will not kill people, whereas we believe that what we are dealing with could be a danger to public life. On the questions of noise and protection of children, we believe that the issues can be taken up and are adequately dealt with by the Bill. Indeed, they can be raised either by the statutory bodies or by individuals.

I think that I have covered most of the points that have been raised by hon. Members. We believe that the House should support the amendment.

Question put, That this House insists on its amendment No. 62 to which the Lords have disagreed, and disagrees with the amendment No. 62A proposed by the Lords in lieu thereof.

The House divided: Ayes 268, Noes 159.

Division No. 254] [9:16 pm
Ainger, Nick Battle, John
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Beard, Nigel
Alexander, Douglas Beckett, rh Margaret
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E) Begg, Miss Anne
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Benn, Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy Bennett, Andrew
Bailey, Adrian Betts, Clive
Baird, Vera Blackman, Liz
Barnes, Harry Blears, Ms Hazel
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington) Francis, Dr. Hywel
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Bradshaw, Ben Gibson, Dr. Ian
Brennan, Kevin Gilroy, Linda
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Goggins, Paul
Bryant, Chris Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Buck, Ms Karen Grogan, John
Burgon, Colin Hain, rh Peter
Burnham, Andy Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Byers, rh Stephen Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Caborn, rh Richard Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Cairns, David Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Hanson, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin Healey, John
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Challen, Colin Hendrick, Mark
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hepburn, Stephen
Chaytor, David Heppell, John
Clapham, Michael Hesford, Stephen
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough) Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston) Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hopkins, Kelvin
Clelland, David Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon Howells, Dr. Kim
Coffey, Ms Ann Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Coleman, Iain Humble, Mrs Joan
Colman, Tony Hume, John (Foyle)
Connarty, Michael Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Iddon, Dr. Brian
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston) Illsley, Eric
Corston, Jean Irranca-Davies, Huw
Cousins, Jim Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cranston, Ross Jenkins, Brian
Cruddas, Jon Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Cryer, Ann (Keighley) Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington) Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Darling, rh Alistair Jowell, rh Tessa
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
David, Wayne Kaufman, rh Gerald
Davidson, lan Keeble, Ms Sally
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli) Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Kemp, Fraser
Dawson, Hilton Khabra, Piara S.
Dean, Mrs Janet Kidney, David
Denham, rh John Kilfoyle, Peter
Dhanda, Parmjit King, Andy (Rugby)
Donohoe, Brian H. King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Doran, Frank
Drew, David (Stroud) Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Lammy, David
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Lepper, David
Edwards, Huw Leslie, Christopher
Efford, Clive Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E) Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Farrelly, Paul Love, Andrew
Fisher, Mark Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Fitzpatrick, Jim Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
Follett, Barbara McAvoy, Thomas
Foster, rh Derek McCabe, Stephen
Foster, Michael (Worcester) McCartney, rh Ian
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye) MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John Rooney, Terry
McIsaac, Shona Ruane, Chris
McKechin, Ann Ruddock, Joan
Mackinlay, Andrew Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
McWalter, Tony Salter, Martin
McWilliam, John Savidge, Malcolm
Mallaber, Judy Sawford, Phil
Mandelson, rh Peter Shaw, Jonathan
Mann, John (Bassetlaw) Sheerman, Barry
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW) Sheridan, Jim
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Singh, Marsha
Martlew, Eric Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Michael, rh Alun Soley, Clive
Milburn, rh Alan Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Miliband, David Steinberg, Gerry
Moffatt, Laura Stevenson, George
Mole, Chris Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret Stoate, Dr. Howard
Morgan, Julie Stringer, Graham
Morley, Elliot Stuart, Ms Gisela
Morris, rh Estelle Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Mudie, George Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Mullin, Chris Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Munn, Ms Meg Tipping, Paddy
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Olner, Bill Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Organ, Diana Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr) Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Owen, Albert Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Palmer, Dr. Nick Wareing, Robert N.
Picking, Anne Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Pickthall, Colin White, Brian
Pike, Peter (Burnley) Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Plaskitt, James Wicks, Malcolm
Pollard, Kerry Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Pond, Chris (Gravesham) Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn) Wills, Michael
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, rh Dawn Wood, Mike (Batley)
Prosser, Gwyn Woolas, Phil
Purchase, Ken Worthington, Tony
Purnell, James Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N) Wright, David (Telford)
Raynsford, rh Nick Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough) Wyatt, Derek
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Tellers for the Ayes:
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland) Mr. Jim Murphy and
Paul Clark
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Brazier, Julian
Allan, Richard Breed, Colin
Amess, David Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Browning, Mrs Angela
Bacon, Richard Burnett, John
Baker, Norman Burns, Simon
Barker, Gregory Burstow, Paul
Baron, John (Billericay) Burt, Alistair
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim) Butterfill, John
Blunt, Crispin Cable, Dr. Vincent
Boswell, Tim Calton, Mrs Patsy
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey) Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)
Cash, William
Brady, Graham Chidgey, David
Brake, Tom (Carshalton) Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James Moss, Malcolm
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Collins, Tim Norman, Archie
Conway, Derek Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Cotter, Brian O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Öpik, Lembit
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford) Osborne, George (Tatton)
Page, Richard
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden) Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Dodds, Nigel Pickles, Eric
Doughty, Sue Portillo, rh Michael
Duncan, Alan (Rutland) Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Fallon, Michael Randall, John
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster) Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Flight, Howard Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Foster, Don (Bath) Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Garnier, Edward Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
George, Andrew (St. Ives) Roe, Mrs Marion
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis) Rosindell, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra Ruffley, David
Goodman, Paul Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Grayling, Chris Sanders, Adrian
Green, Damian (Ashford) Sayeed, Jonathan
Green, Matthew (Ludlow) Selous, Andrew
Greenway, John Simmonds, Mark
Grieve, Dominic Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Gummer, rh John Spicer, Sir Michael
Hague, rh William Spring, Richard
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon) Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Harvey, Nick Streeter, Gary
Hayes, John (S Holland) Stunell, Andrew
Heath, David Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Hendry, Charles Syms, Robert
Holmes, Paul Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Horam, John (Orpington) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Jack, rh Michael Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Jenkin, Bernard Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Keetch, Paul Thurso, John
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Kirkwood, Sir Archy Tredinnick, David
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire) Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Tyrie, Andrew
Laws, David (Yeovil) Waterson, Nigel
Leigh, Edward Watkinson, Angela
Letwin, rh Oliver Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E) Whittingdale, John
Liddell-Grainger, lan Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Lidington, David Wiggin, Bill
Lilley, rh Peter Willetts, David
Llwyd, Elfyn Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Loughton, Tim Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs) Willis, Phil
McIntosh, Miss Anne Wilshire, David
Mackay, rh Andrew Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Maclean, rh David Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maude, rh Francis Younger-Ross, Richard
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick Tellers for the Noes:
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield) Mr. Mark Hoban and
Mr. Mark Francois

Question accordingly agreed to.

It being more than one hour after the commencement of proceedings, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put forthwith the questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day].

Amendment (a) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 62A agreed to.

Resolved, That this House does not insist on its amendment No. 21 to which the Lords have disagreed.—[Mr. Ainger.]

Amendments (a) to (h) in lieu of Commons amendment No. 21 agreed to.

Resolved, That this House does not insist on its amendments Nos. 6, 15, 16 and 20, to which the Lords have disagreed and agrees with Lords amendment No. 50A in lieu of Commons amendment No. 50—[Mr. Ainger.]

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