Business and Planning Bill

Earl of Clancarty Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 13th July 2020

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Business and Planning Act 2020 View all Business and Planning Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 119-I Marshalled list for Committee - (8 Jul 2020)
Lord Naseby Portrait Lord Naseby (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I very much support the Bill and admire Her Majesty’s Government for pushing it forward. I say particular thanks to my noble friend Lord Howe, who wrote me a letter about new towns.

I will speak in favour of Amendment 2. I say to my noble friend that for five years of my life I lived opposite a pub, and if you live opposite, adjacent to or close to a pub you expect noise on Fridays and Saturdays, so there is nothing new about that in relation to the Bill. That point should be considered.

I say to my dear noble friends, Lord Holmes and Lord Blencathra, who is my roommate, well done because they have made people think. But, frankly, the average publican will think. He or she is aware of the disabled and of wheelchairs. Maybe they need reminding, and Amendment 2 does that, but for heaven’s sake, this is only a temporary Bill. The only point I would make to my noble friend the Minister is, why do we not review this after six months? After all, the real point of the Bill is the next six months; particularly the summer and autumn. It would be more sensible to review it towards the end of this year, around December, in readiness for next year. The need is self-evident. I support the amendment and wish my Front Bench all possible success with the Bill.

Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I support pavement licences not only for the purposes of the Bill but because, as I said at Second Reading, they have the potential to help knit together communities. But there must—“must” is the operative word—be access for all pavement users. Otherwise, our pavements are not a shared space in the wider sense of the term.

Anyone who knows Berlin and smaller towns in various countries on the continent will see how well this can work. As a pedestrian in Berlin, I do not recall ever having to walk around tables and chairs, which is an important point. The scheme is not working if you cannot walk down the centre of the payment, and where the pavement is wide enough, there is no reason why café furniture cannot be split into two sections so that it can be right up against the road or fence between for safety.

I am sure that there is a whole art to this, but things such as large wooden tubs with flowers and large umbrellas marking the corners of the café territory can give the area a structure that is both open and rigid, so that pedestrians know precisely where they can walk on a predictable, routine basis. That is extremely important, particularly in the context of the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Low. You should be able to walk down a pavement and know precisely where you will be walking on different days.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I had the pleasure yesterday afternoon of my first meal out since before the lockdown, at the fabulous Drift Inn in Lamlash, on the Isle of Arran. The young proprietors and members of staff there had been looking forward to their first full spring and summer, with tourists and locals enjoying their hospitality. Of course, the business has had to stand still for several months. For them and so many others, small businesses in particular, I welcomed the Bill last week and I welcome it again today. I hope that, beyond England and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, there will be a bit more enthusiasm for supporting these businesses to get safely back on the rails over the coming weeks and months.

Turning to the amendments, I counsel the Government not to go against the grain when pushing through the Bill and the important powers it will enable. The Government themselves have spoken about building back better after the lockdown and Covid-19. There have been many negatives and terrible impacts of Covid-19 and the lockdown over recent months, but for those of us lucky enough to have had the opportunity to leave our homes, at times it has also been a pleasure to reclaim our streets and parks for walks or runs and relaxation. Many people have commented on that.

On the issue of off-sales, which I mentioned last week and which will come up later in Committee, I think it would be wrong for those to become too readily available in a society where they are already far too readily available. That is a major mistake. Also, we cannot talk about “building back better” if we leave people out of the equation. Without the amendment so ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, whose introduction to this group was excellent, and without the consultation that was so well described by my noble friend Lord Harris, we will be, yes, rightly encouraging businesses to become entrepreneurial in this new environment and encouraging customers to go out and enjoy the hospitality of those businesses, but if we do that to the exclusion of sections of our society, whether they are there as customers or are just passing by, that will be a terrible error. We should leave no one behind as we emerge from this lockdown period.

I urge the Government not to go ahead with the Bill in its current form just because it has been through the House of Commons and because it was drafted by Ministers and officials before these debates but to listen to the debates and make the changes. They will get a much stronger welcome in the country for the Bill when enacted, and it will be more successful as a result, if it involves everybody and does not leave anybody behind.

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Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas [V]
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My Lords, I am delighted to support this amendment. I hope the Government will consider allowing councils considerable freedom as to what land they allow premises to use, obviously subject to the permission of the council and the landholder. If you look at a rather complicated town such as Eastbourne, there are few places where you can use the pavement, but not that far away there may well be spaces you could allow a premises to use. It gets quite difficult to negotiate the Bill as it is written, but with a bit more freedom for a local council to apply common sense to where they are prepared to allow tables to be put, we could get to a useful outcome. I encourage my noble friend to look at widening the scope of the permissions that the council is allowed to give so that we can find within the confines of a convoluted town the space that our businesses need.

Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty [V]
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My Lords, I will be very brief indeed. I support the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles. It seems a matter of common sense that, certainly in the shorter term, there might be a need to use other spaces. The LGA supports such measures, and I hope the Government take notice and clarify the position.

Baroness Thornhill Portrait Baroness Thornhill (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted’s Amendment 24. Her speech shows that there is much confusion around aspects of the licensing laws. This is also abundantly clear from contributions by other noble Lords today, which is why I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, said at Second Reading: a review of our licensing laws is long overdue.

It seems very likely that there will be areas not currently within the so-called red lines of the licence that may be better used for external drinking than the obvious pavement areas, for reasons outlined by the previous speakers. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that local authorities, which know their area, pubs and landlords best, should have maximum flexibility.

This amendment seeks to expand the opportunities for creating such outdoor spaces. For example, can the Minister clarify whether councils can license parking bays that have been suspended—naturally, subject to safety and local considerations, as always? This would enable businesses to take advantage of pavement licences that they otherwise would not be able to because of the limited width of the pavement, for example. Can the Minister also clarify whether new pavement licences are exempt from the public space protection orders in the same way that licences under the Highways Act 1980 are—or are the powers already there but not explicit, in which case can guidance be amended?

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Baroness Anelay of St Johns Portrait Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con) [V]
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My Lords, Amendment 42 stands in my name on the Marshalled List and I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for adding his name in support. I strongly support the Bill and hope that it reaches the statute book quickly, and without too much difficulty next week on Report.

My proposed new clause would ensure that there is a review to examine the effect of the Bill’s proposals for the tourism and hospitality sector through to the end of January 2021. They would be compared with other measures, such as extending the furlough scheme, the grants currently available, and the assistance to the sector announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer just last Wednesday. My objective, however, is to probe how and when the Government plan to review the operation of these proposals in a manner which facilitates proper parliamentary scrutiny.

The Government have moved quickly over the past few weeks to extend support for the hospitality and tourism industry beyond the end of October, when much of the support for wider areas of the economy will either end or be amended. I therefore welcome the Government’s policy paper Plan for Jobs, which recognises that:

“Pubs, restaurants, cafés, and bars are mainstays of the nation’s high street … while the accommodation sector ensures that visitors can enjoy the sights, experiences and attractions the country has to offer.”

The paper acknowledges that they have

“been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and necessary restrictions.”

It is clear that the tourism and hospitality industry has planned carefully to welcome visitors back as quickly but as safely as possible in these pandemic times. They have invested in and installed Covid-19 sanitary and distancing practices, but some businesses have indicated that they simply will not be able to reopen in time to benefit from the summer season.

The added challenge the sector faces is that, in many parts of the country, tourism and hospitality sectors operate on a seasonal basis. My family holidays are to Cornwall in the summer and sometimes in the winter, and I have seen the severity of the impact on businesses, at the end of the summer season, across that beautiful county. Hotels mostly remain open in some of the major resorts, but there tends to be strong competition for their winter visitors and they struggle even to cover their overheads. The impact of Covid-19 is set to make that even worse.

Some major events have already been cancelled this summer and that will affect local economies at what should be their best money-making time. To give just one example, the Tour of Britain cycle race was due to start in Penzance in Cornwall, in September, but has been postponed until September next year. That event would have given a major boost to the tourism industry across the whole county.

We all fervently hope that there is not going to be a second spike of Covid-19, but we have also seen reports that medical experts believe there is likely to be one during winter. The potential impact on tourism and hospitality should be considered when the Government prepare policy initiatives throughout the rest of this year.

In selecting the date of 31 January 2021, by which the Secretary of State would be required to lay a report before Parliament, I had regard to the following factors. It would cover the winter season, including the partial increase in visitor numbers over Christmas and the new year. It would also cover the period of support that the Government have already promised. It would also be as light touch as possible, since it requires one report six months after this month. I beg to move.

Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty [V]
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My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and I also support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, would enable us to take a wider and longer-term view, beyond the narrow confines of the Bill. It is important that a careful eye is kept on the hospitality sector, particularly its workforce. Worryingly, we are now hearing of job losses, which will surely increase if the furlough and self-employed schemes end before tourism can properly get going again. It is worth noting that the self-employed are becoming an ever more significant component of the workforce in the hospitality sector.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, talked about Cornwall. My wife and daughter are intending to go to Cornwall for a week, next weekend. It will be the first time anyone has made a serious move outside our house for a long time. I am staying home to be near the Lords Chamber, aka our repurposed front room. I do not think my family want the Lords down in Cornwall for the week but, as for anyone taking a holiday anywhere this summer, these decisions could be changed at a moment’s notice, because of the fear of a local lockdown or even a second wave that affects much of the country. Areas such as Cornwall, which have not been hit badly, will nevertheless be on tenterhooks. They do not want the virus of course, but they need the tourism.

The noble Baroness also mentioned events. My family was also looking at whether it would be possible to visit the Minack Theatre, which is one of the venues around the country that is starting to open. They will be back home before Tate St Ives opens on 27 July. Opening dates and whether events happen will, for some, affect whether a trip to Cornwall or anywhere else is viable. Arts and cultural events, alongside the hospitality sector, are hugely important to tourism and, with hospitality, form a whole commercial ecosystem significant apart from its cultural value. The Plan for Jobs, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, does not recognise this ecosystem.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, pointed out at Second Reading, tourists from abroad come here primarily for our arts and heritage, but of course they book into hotels and go out for dinner as well. We will be discussing the arts later with regard to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, but do the Government intend to introduce analogous regulations for the arts along with perhaps some creative temporary measures as that sector opens up? In terms of these amendments, every part of the wider ecology will contribute to successful tourism when it gets going properly again, so in this respect it needs to be understood that the whole is greater than the parts.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees
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The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, has withdrawn from the list so I now call the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey.