Motion to Approve
My Lords, this order is to extend licensing powers on Sunday, the day of the Euro 2020 final, to 11.15 pm. I am aware that this House is all that stands between football coming home and the public’s enjoyment of that in their local.
I begin by apologising for the haste in which this measure has been introduced, and the fact that in the time available it has not been possible to complete all the normal procedures and secure the prior scrutiny that the relevant committees would normally give to such an instrument. I regret that, and I assure noble Lords that we mean no discourtesy to the House or the normal procedures. That we have had to proceed in this way is a recognition of the speed with which tournament football moves. It is also a recognition of the fact that this tournament has captured the public imagination, and that it has been successfully hosted, with more games in the UK than anywhere else, despite the pandemic, is certainly a cause for celebration.
I hope I can also reassure noble Lords that this is a very modest instrument with a single, limited purpose. It extends licensing hours in England and Wales on 11 July 2021, the day of the final, to 11.15 pm. Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003 allows the Secretary of State to make an order relaxing opening hours for licensed premises to mark occasions of
“exceptional international, national, or local significance.”
The Government consider that England hosting the final of Euro 2020 is an event of exceptional international significance, which many people will want to watch live and celebrate together.
There is a very important practical point. We want to make sure that people can enjoy the concluding game in its entirety. It is possible that the final, like several games in the tournament so far, will go to extra time and penalties, pushing the finishing time back. It would be incredibly unfortunate if people were unable to watch the game in full, and I would certainly not want to be the landlord required to empty his pub just as the penalty shoot-out was about to begin—I do not want to be the Minister who would do that either. The instrument presented today ensures there is no possibility of that being required.
We also want to help the licensing industry after what has been an incredibly difficult 18 months. The order only extends licensing hours and makes no changes to the existing Covid regulations. Just as has been the case throughout the pandemic, we will expect the licensed sector to be responsible in ensuring that these regulations are upheld.
The British Beer and Pub Association, alongside the British Institute of Innkeeping, UKHospitality, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Local Government Association, has developed guidance for licensees screening the Euro 2020 tournament. It is intended to help licensed venues, licensing authorities and the police to work together to create a safe environment for customers and staff.
In the time available, we have conducted the consultation required by statute in a truncated but effective way. The overwhelming majority of those to whom we have spoken are supportive. I will not disguise that the police have concerns, but they recognise why the Government have chosen to proceed in this way.
I hope all sides of your Lordships’ House will support this order to help the nation celebrate the final on Sunday as the hosting nation. It is a short and simple measure designed to ensure that on Sunday, the whole nation can enjoy a fitting end to a great celebration of sport. Its purpose is clear, and I commend it to the House.
I thank the Minister for explaining the measure before the House and congratulate England on their win against Denmark yesterday. As a neutral observer from Wales, I concluded at the end of the game that England were the better team. However, it was so unfortunate that individual supporters let them down and that there is now a complaint to UEFA that a laser pen was used to try to blind the Danish goalkeeper when that rather dubious penalty was taken. This is most unfortunate and does not reflect well on English fans.
I hope that Cardiff and Edinburgh will pass similar legislation to expand licensing hours. After all, we have a large number of Italians in Glasgow and in the valleys, and they are entitled to their alternative celebration too.
On a serious note, I echo the warning given by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, at Question Time today about the possibility of domestic abuse following a game. It so happens that my daughter-in-law, Jodie Swallow, made a study of the interplay between domestic violence and sports events. It was her PhD thesis. She concluded that perpetrators use abuse, violence and coercive behaviour around their sporting interests as a means of asserting their power and subjugating their partners. She identified a significant danger. Wives and sweethearts should look out if England lose.
It is the most intense match for 55 years. You have to be as old as me to remember the last time England were in the final in 1966. I remember it well on black and white television. Of course, that was against Germany. For the last win against Italy in a competition on English soil you have to back in history to when Boudicca sacked Colchester. It would be quite appropriate for a statue of Gareth Southgate to be placed next to hers on Westminster Bridge if England can repeat her victory.
I declare my football interests as set out in the register and, not surprisingly, congratulate the England team on their truly magnificent achievements and the pleasure they have given to so many millions of our fellow citizens.
The Government justify this order on the grounds that Sunday’s final is an occasion of exceptional national significance for the purposes of Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, given the achievements of the England football team and the United Kingdom’s successful hosting of the tournament in exception circumstances. Licensed premises will be able to remain open until 11.15 pm on Sunday for the sale of alcohol and the provision of regulated entertainment. Does the extension until 11.15 pm mean that premises have to close by 11.15 pm, or that they can remain open later but are not able to sell alcohol or have regulated entertainment after 11.15pm?
Consultation took place on Tuesday this week with “selected partners”. Who did that include beyond the police and local government representative bodies, including public health and the hospitality industry mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum? Apart from the police, did any other consultees have any reservations or caveats, or perhaps have no firm view one way or the other?
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on football opposed the changes on the grounds of risk of increased public disorder and resulting demands on policing. However, on balance, notwithstanding that feedback, the Government considered the extension of hours appropriate, limited in duration to one day only and the importance of marking this event of exceptional national significance. The Government felt that this event could be marked by an extension of licensing hours but were other options for marking Sunday’s event considered and, if so, what were they?
Earlier today, as the Minister will know, and as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, speaking for the Government, reminded the House that domestic abuse violence increases after big matches and that to many people the words “coming home” represent not a footballing hope but a threat—and a violent threat at that. Have the Government increased support for domestic violence services and the police while the tournament has been taking place?
It appears to have been left a little late in the day to proceed with this order, which was presumably not dependent on the welcome result of the match last night, given that the consultation, such as it was, took place on Tuesday. Were the Government always anticipating extending the licensing hours for the final, in which case could this order have not been tabled sooner to give those affected more notice and to avoid a parliamentary rush?
What assessment have the Government made of the impact of the terms of this order on the number of cases of the latest variant, which have been rising? Can we take it that the medical and scientific advice that the Government presumably sought and received is not expressing any real concern about the impact of extending licensing hours on Sunday?
We support the terms of the order, and hope that the Government have thought it through properly and have credible reasons, which have not been spelt out in the Explanatory Memorandum, for being satisfied that any adverse impacts will be minimal and far outweighed by the benefits. We wish England every success on Sunday night and look forward to a night for us all to remember, irrespective of whether we will be taking advantage of the extension of licensing hours.
I thank both noble Lords for the points that they have made. I join both of them in expressing concern for the effect that events like this have on domestic violence, and it is certainly something that the police will be alert to. It is not just this football game; any football game seems to be a time of escalation of domestic violence. I totally understand the points that the noble Lords are making and, yes, the police and support services are fully aware of the issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, mentioned the appalling incident with a laser pen. I have already asked about this and I understand that the police are investigating it. He mentioned that he hopes that Cardiff and Edinburgh will be passing similar regulations. The order applies of course to Wales but I am sure that Edinburgh will be considering it as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about 11.15 pm and if it was kicking-out time or last-sale time. It is the last-sale time—alcohol of any description cannot be served after that time. In terms of other consultees, I know that the British Beer and Pub Association alongside the British Institute of Innkeeping, UKHospitality, the NPCC, which he mentioned, and the Local Government Association were consulted
I apologise for the late laying of the instrument, as I said at the beginning. The remarkable progress England has made throughout the tournament has surprised and delighted even Government Ministers. It has served to bring the question of a licensing extension into focus. We could not really have foreseen—of course we had every confidence in them—how the England team would progress or just how successful this tournament has been, not least for the well-being of this country. I am sure noble Lords agree.
The order changes nothing about the current Covid rules; they are still in place. Clearly, 19 July will see a change, but for the moment everything that was in place before Sunday will still be in place on Sunday. I thank noble Lords for their questions. Football’s coming home.