All 2 Baroness Williams of Trafford contributions to the Business and Planning Act 2020

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Mon 13th Jul 2020
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 13th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant registered interests as a vice-president of the Local Government Association and as president of Pubwatch.

Group 1 deals with a range of amendments relating to premises and alcohol licensing, including Amendment 39 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Berkeley on temporary event notices and Amendment 41 in my name, which seeks to add a new clause on health and safety to the Bill after Clause 11.

The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, referred to there being no votes today. We do not often vote in Committee—I have now been in the House for 10 years. I have made it clear in all my dealings with the Government, at Second Reading and in my meetings with them, which have been very helpful, that I will divide the House on Report if necessary. I have been very clear on that. I hope that we will get some resolution today so that it will not be necessary, but I am certainly not averse to having a vote. I would not be accused of that.

The first amendment in this group, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, raises the issue of cumulative impact zones, which are areas defined as contributing to community problems because of alcohol. The noble Lord rightly seeks to stop premises in these zones applying for pavement licences. I look forward to the response from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, explaining how she has consulted with groups such as Pubwatch and other groups representing towns and city centres.

I hope that the noble Baroness will also detail the wider assessment the Government have made of the impact of these changes on crime, and in response to Amendment 11, on police consultation, I hope she will confirm that dialogue with police, local authorities and other interested parties will continue after measures in the Bill are implemented.

The noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, made the point, which I agree with, about the need for the new street drinking to be controlled and managed safely. People can then relax and support the local economy while doing so safely and helping to avoid a second spike. That is very important.

My Amendment 39, plus two amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, deal with how the provisions can help businesses which do not have the necessary licence presently, as they rely on temporary event notices. This would also help street vendors who have been hit particularly hard in this crisis and have seen their doors close, some for good. Up to 15,000 businesses have lost all their income overnight and many tens of thousands of pounds have been tied up in rent for music festivals and rolled over to 2021.

The amendment would also help small breweries, which have suffered. Many noble Lords have spoken about the support for the small brewery industry. As we have heard, small breweries have seen up to 82% of their sales reduced because of Covid-19. They have not received the same level of financial support as pubs and the hospitality sector, and that is a matter of regret. One in four breweries—about 500 of the 2,000—does not currently have any way to sell directly to the public. The Government should adopt this measure as a way of helping them in the months ahead. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley, made a convincing case for the need to help small breweries, as did my noble friends Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lord Wood of Anfield. As my noble friend Lord Berkeley said, these small breweries have made a fantastic contribution to the variety and type of beers sold in the UK; they employ local people, and they have been devastated. We need to do something and I hope the noble Baroness will be able to give us a positive response.

My Amendment 41 seeks to highlight the importance of workers’ safety in the hospitality sector, which the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, also referred to. I am grateful to the support I have had from the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers’ Union for its contribution about how to address this issue. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, will address issues such as the handling of cash and how that can be limited. In pubs and other small venues, small amounts of money are handed over. There are payment companies like Worldpay and Shopify, but in many cases if you go into a pub or a small shop and want to pay by debit card, or if you spend less than £10 or £15, they charge you. There needs to be some way in which the companies will not charge the 10p that they presently do. What contribution can they make to ensure that people use less cash and pay by debit card more? Companies would need to step up to the plate and maybe the Government could ask them to do that. It would certainly help reduce the amount of cash being used, with the benefits that that would bring.

It would be interesting to hear about the protection of security staff at entrances to licensed premises. That is very difficult normally, but particularly now that we are talking about social distancing. What support are the Government going to give those staff to ensure they can do their job properly as well as being safe?

How do we ensure that toilets are safe for staff and customers? What discussion has the Minister had with the British Toilet Association including advice on keeping toilets clean and safe? This will be of paramount importance for staff who need to ensure their toilets are kept clean and safe for their customers. Can the noble Baroness also explain what guidance the Government will offer to pubs on these other issues?

Other amendments in the group raise important points, and I hope that we will get a detailed response, particularly on Amendment 44, from the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. They both made a clear case about allowing better enforcement of the drinking regulations, which would be welcomed. It will be interesting to see whether it is possible to bring that forward quickly. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, made it clear that there is support in the sector for bringing these matters in quickly.

I will leave my comments there and look forward to the detailed response from the Minister.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, who manages to get cannabis into every debate—I admire her tenacity. If she is agreeable, I will respond to some of her comments in group six.

The general tenor of this debate is that people support the context in which this Bill is proposed, to get the economy moving and, crucially, the fact that it is sunsetted to next September. As my noble friend Lady Noakes clearly articulated, this is not about the norm but about emergency measures to get the economy moving again. As this mistake has been made a couple of times, it is important to distinguish between pavement licences and off-sales licences, which of course supermarkets have got anyway.

Amendment 1 in the name of my noble friend Lord Balfe seeks to prevent the granting of pavement licences to businesses in cumulative impact zones. It is right that cumulative impact and potential for nuisance and disorder be considered when granting these pavement licences. That is why the Bill gives local authorities the ability to effectively manage risks in their local area. If a local authority thinks problems related to alcohol or anything else could occur, they can refuse an application for a pavement licence. In granting these licences, they may also impose conditions and if these conditions are breached, the local authority may issue a notice requiring the breach to be remedied. Local authorities can also revoke pavement licences in several situations including when the licence is causing risk to public health or safety or causing anti-social behaviour and nuisance. I hope my noble friend will agree it is important to retain local authority discretion in this area and he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment 3 is also in the name of my noble friend, and I appreciate the points he has made. We expect the pavement and alcohol licencing measures to benefit cafes, restaurants and pubs primarily. However, it is important that the Government support economic recovery whenever they can, which is why this fast-track route is available to all businesses selling and serving food and drink. It will mean that a range of businesses, including some shops, theatres, and galleries, will be able to apply for pavement licences and off-sale licences, maximising the economic impact of these temporary measures. For the reasons I have set out I am not able to accept this amendment and I hope that my noble friend will not press it to a vote.

Amendment 11 is the last of the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Balfe. I assure noble Lords that the Bill requires local authorities to consult such persons as the local authority considers appropriate before determining an application for a pavement licence.

To answer my noble friend Lord Sheikh and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, the Government expect that this would include the local police force, but believe that the local authority can and should use its discretion and local knowledge to decide who to consult. To answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, directly: yes, we have spoken to the police. We have engaged with them throughout. The most recent time that I spoke directly to Martin Hewitt was last Friday, just before we went into super Saturday. We will continue to engage with them throughout.

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26: Clause 11, page 8, line 33, leave out from “must” to end of line 35 and insert—
“(a) be made at a time when the licensed premises are open for the purposes of selling alcohol for consumption on the premises; and(b) be made at a time no later than 11.00pm.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would mean that off-sales could not take place after 11pm, regardless of whether the premises can sell alcohol on the premises after 11pm.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Do not worry, my Lords, this is not going to be a long statement. I thought it might assist noble Lords to know that I intend to table an amendment on Report to introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm for operators to trade under the new off-sales permissions.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her promise of an amendment but, regrettably, we have a series of amendments in this group: Amendments 26, 30, 32, 34 and 35. I will briefly put on the record what they are, although they are set out in the Marshalled List.

In addition to the amendment promised, the Government need to think about amendments that aim to prevent street drinking and disorder, particularly late at night, where late-night licences are in operation for on-licence premises in the vicinity of residential premises, as the Minister has suggested she will do. If revellers who have already consumed a lot of alcohol are allowed to purchase alcohol to take away just before premises close, sometimes just before 3 am, there is a danger that they will simply party in nearby streets, to the detriment of local residents. The Minister’s suggested, albeit completely last-minute, promise of an amendment is welcome to that extent, but, whatever the hour, if alcohol is sold in open containers such as pint beer glasses, there is every incentive to consume it in surrounding streets rather than take it home or to the office. If alcohol is sold without restriction as to the kind of container—such as pint beer glasses—in which it can be supplied, as allowed under the Bill, there is a danger of injury either by assault or by accident; for example, were someone to fall while carrying a beer glass. The potential for both assault and accident increases with consumption of alcohol.

At Second Reading, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, tried to allay these concerns by pointing to the provisions in the Bill to review and revoke off-sales if premises were causing problems, and the power under Section 76 of Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to close down premises. Those provisions are largely unworkable as they require the particular premises responsible for the problem of street drinking, violence and disorder to be identified. In central London, for example, there are hundreds of on-licence premises within short distances of one another, and it would be practically impossible to identify from which premises the revellers causing the problems had bought their alcohol. There are more than 100 premises with post-1 am licences in Soho alone.

Some of those most likely to be affected, represented by the West End Community Network, will support what the Minister has promised because they support an 11 pm end time for off-sales and have not asked for a restriction on when off-sales can begin. Can the Minister explain why the Government have left it until tonight to give even the slightest indication that they are prepared to bring forward their own amendment? Will she agree to meet me and other interested Peers between now and Report to discuss both the Government’s proposed amendments and the other amendments in my name in this group? In the meantime, despite what the Minister has said, I move Amendment 26 in order for her to respond at the end of the debate.

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I will also make a few comments on Amendment 45, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, which would add a new clause to the Bill to deal with the very separate issue of reducing the late night levy for premises shut during the coronavirus pandemic. That seems a good idea to me, and local authorities should have a say in determining the levies and applying a reduction. The Government should clarify how they are engaging with councils in the process of determining these levies. It seems only reasonable that you get some reduction in the levy you pay, if you have been shut during the pandemic and unable to actually trade. I will leave my comments there, I thank the Government again and I look forward to the response from the noble Baroness.
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I thank all noble Lords for their comments, and their discipline in not repeating the same remarks over and over again.

The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, made a very good point about how local areas and local partners will cope with all this and their capacity to cope if things go wrong. We have been very clear from the outset that, if things do go wrong, if licensees do not enforce their obligations and the public start to behave in a reckless manner, these places will be closed. The licensing authorities are quite clear about that and have already started to close premises when things have gotten out of hand. Over lockdown, I have spent a lot of time talking to the police on their operational calls. They are very clear that this is a multi-stakeholder approach and that everyone—not only the police, not only the local authorities, but the public and the licensees themselves—has a responsibility to make this work well.

On how this will help the economy, the night-time economy is a very vibrant one, and footfall in town centres can only enhance it. The Government have, however, listened to and sympathised with the concerns around the possibility of associated noise, nuisance, and anti-social behaviour that might occur when a late licence is in existence.

The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, asked about off-sales. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, tells me that in the olden days off-sales were a common occurrence at pubs and are nothing new, but with the advent of off-licences and supermarkets selling alcohol they are not so common anymore.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, asked about cumulative impact areas. I covered that in my earlier comments.

To recap, the alcohol licensing provisions will allow all licensed premises with an on-sales licence to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises, provided they have not previously been refused permission for off-sales. In the draft of the Bill before the House, licensed premises which are eligible will be bound by a temporary licence condition which limits the hours of trade to the existing hours of operation as the premises’ on-sales licence permits, which can include late licences beyond 11 pm.

However, we recognise the concerns of noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments, and obviously local authorities have had concerns too. That is why we intend to a table an amendment on Report to introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm for operators to trade under new off-sales permissions.

Both my noble friends Lord Balfe and Lady Stowell of Beeston asked about earlier finish times. If that is the wish then those earlier finish times will certainly be permitted.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked me why tonight and why at the last minute. I say to the noble Lord that I have worked really hard to make this statement tonight, so to have had it done ahead of Report is an achievement.

The new provisions defined in the amendment that the Government will bring forward will not affect the underlying licences of premises or their conditions. It will provide for new permissions that will apply to the holders of only on-sales licences, as well as to holders of more restrictive dual licences that allow for off-sales for a more restrictive period. The effect of the amendment will be that new permissions will apply only up to 11 pm or when the current licensing hours for that premises end. I reiterate for the benefit of my noble friend Lord Cormack that if it is wished that that will finish earlier—say, 10 pm—that is up to the individual premises concerned.

Crucially, the forthcoming amendment will build on the current set of safeguards previously heard by the House, which can be used to address concerns about crime, disorder and disruption caused by premises operating irresponsibly—to go to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. That includes the new expedited review process that I have talked about previously, which allows a local authority to suspend or modify the new off-sales permission within 48 hours and then hold a hearing to decide whether to revoke, suspend or modify the permission within 28 days.

In addition, the police are already empowered under Section 76 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to issue immediate closure notices to premises if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the use of a particular premises has resulted or is likely to result in nuisance to members of the public or that there has been or is likely to be disorder near the premises which is associated with the use of those premises. I spoke to the Metropolitan Police the other day and they stand ready to use Section 34 and 35 dispersal notices if necessary.

We also intend to publish guidance alongside the Bill that will set out the details of how the new provisions, including the details of the amendment, will apply to premises and local authorities. I hope that addresses the concerns raised by the noble Lords who tabled the amendments and that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, will be content to withdraw his amendment.

I turn to Amendments 32 and 35, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. They relate to the sale of alcohol for consumption in open and glass containers. The Government agree that premises must be responsible for the manner in which they serve alcohol in all circumstances, and that includes minimising the risk of any associated disorder. We will therefore be including recommendations to address issues regarding glassware in the guidance for local authorities and premises that will accompany these provisions. The guidance will encourage the use of closed or non-glass containers such as reusable plastic cups. However, we also recognise that restaurants in particular will benefit from being able to serve alcohol in open containers in outdoor areas that they may use under the provisions in the Bill relating to pavement licences. Premises may have different serving equipment and preferences, and the provisions need to remain flexible to meet business and customer needs. Requiring that alcohol sold in these circumstances must be in a closed container could hinder premises that might want to take advantage of the aims of the Bill. I therefore determine that it would be too prescriptive to specify in the Bill restrictions on the type of containers that can be used for the off-trade permission, and I hope the noble Lord will be content not to move his amendment.

Lastly, the Government are sympathetic to the concerns behind Amendment 45, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, regarding the late-night levy. That is why, in April, the Minister for Crime and Policing wrote to the chairs of the licensing committees to ask them to take a more flexible and pragmatic approach during the coronavirus outbreak, while ensuring that the licensing objectives are safeguarded. I am grateful to the licensing authorities for ensuring that the system has continued to operate during this trying time.

Local authorities of course have discretion when considering non-payment or late payment of an annual premises licence fee or a late-night levy charge. While the Licensing Act 2003 requires that the licence be suspended, it is possible to delay when that suspension takes effect. I hope and expect that businesses experiencing difficulties will make the licensing authority aware and that the licensing authority will treat such businesses sympathetically. In his letter, the Minister for Crime further advised authorities to consider delaying any suspension of the licence where the delay in payment or non-payment was related to Covid-19. I hope that that is a reasonable explanation and that the noble Lord will be content not to move his amendment.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff [V]
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My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for allowing me to intervene. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was very powerful and I welcome the Minister’s statement. I declare that I chair the Commission on Alcohol Harms.

The chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales recently said that it was “crystal clear” that drunk people were unable to socially distance. But let us not forget that the price of beer in the off trade has fallen by 40% relative to the price of other goods since 2000, and pubs have been unable to match the low price. Publicans see cheap supermarket alcohol as a grave danger both to their commercial interests and to the country’s health, and 83% of publicans believe that supermarket alcohol is too cheap. So what happens about off-sales from supermarkets? If these very cheap, highly promoted sales are not tackled, the plan to revive pubs as social meeting places and for the support they can provide in terms of integrating people and supporting our economy will just fail.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the off-sale of cheap alcohol is not a novel concept in terms of the Bill. I totally concur with the noble Baroness’s concerns about the harms of alcohol and about the accessibility of cheap alcohol attracting people who might not have enough money to go to the pub. Ironically, that is why I support pubs: because drinking is done in a much more controlled way. Licensees have an obligation to chuck people out of the pub if they are behaving irresponsibly. Therefore, landlords are prohibited from selling off-sales as well as on-sales to someone who is clearly drunk. It is a good safeguard.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Balfe and Lord Sheikh, for supporting Amendments 30, 32 and 35. There appears to have been a mis-communication over the extent of the amendments that the Government were going to bring forward on Report, which took me slightly off guard—so, with the leave of the House, I will say something more.

I thank the West End Community Network, the Soho Society and the Covent Garden Community Association for their briefings on these issues. I am grateful for the Minister agreeing that new off-sales should be limited to 11 pm. But the Minister does not appear to have heard my reasoning as to why the measures she set out to vary off-sales licences and the power that the police have to close on-licence premises are not effective. I will not repeat them again; I will allow her to read them in Hansard.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
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Read Full debate Business and Planning Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 119-R-I(Corrected-II) Marshalled list for Report - (15 Jul 2020)
Moved by
29: Clause 11, page 8, line 33, after “a” insert “pre-cut off”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment, and the Minister’s other amendments the explanatory statements for which refer to this amendment, provide for certain new permissions regarding off-sales to end at 11pm.
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 29, I will also speak to the other government amendments grouped with it and to which it relates. I thank noble Lords who have scrutinised the alcohol licensing measures in this Bill and, in particular, those who have made points regarding late opening hours. The Government have listened to and understood the concerns around the possibility of associated noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour occurring when a late licence is in existence.

Taken together, Amendments 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38 and 44 introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm to operators trading under the new off-sales permissions. They also limit the ability of those premises which are licensed after midnight to resume off-sales at that time, restricting their ability to do so until they open for business the following day. With these amendments, new permissions will apply only until 11 pm or until the current licensing hours for that premises end, whichever is earlier.

We have also tabled Amendment 45, which addresses those premises that may have restrictions on their licences that do not permit the use of a beer garden or other outdoor space beyond a certain hour. Amendment 45 will limit the ability of a premises to carry out off-sales under the new permissions where they are already limited from selling alcohol for consumption in an outdoor area of the premises. That is, if a premises cannot use its outdoor area beyond a particular time, it will not be permitted to carry out off-sales beyond that time under the new permission either. This amendment is a further safeguard to help to ensure that this measure works for local communities and not against them.

I thank again the noble Lords with whom I have engaged inside and outside of this Chamber, who have helped to bring forward these constructive amendments that the Government have tabled today. I look forward to further debate. I beg to move Amendment 29 and look forward to responding to the other amendments in this group.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 40, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Pinnock, and to the other amendments in this group. For the benefit of those who may have just joined us, let me summarise. The Government have got themselves into a right two and eight. Amendments 29 to 41 deal with bars, pubs and restaurants that have licences to sell alcohol on their premises and which will temporarily be allowed to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises as result of this Bill.

The Bill does not redefine the area covered by pavement licences as being part of the licensed premises. As a consequence, drinks served within the area covered by pavement licences will be off-sales. To enable alcohol, such as glasses of wine and beer, to be served at tables within pavement-licensed areas, the Government have had to lift the current restriction on alcohol off-sales being only in sealed containers. The unintended consequence of lifting this restriction is to allow the unrestricted sale of alcohol from these premises in wine and beer glasses, for example, to people who can then walk down the street, drinking where and when they want.

Local residents do not want people drinking outside their homes, away from licensed premises, with the potential for disorder, violence and urinating in the street, particularly late at night. In addition, broken straight beer glasses can cause horrifying injuries, whether when deliberately broken and used as a weapon or when people fall on to broken glass.

This brings me to the amendments. The Liberal Democrats’ Committee amendment, which sought to restrict off-sales to no later than 11 pm, has been given effect by government Amendments 29, 31 to 34 and 36 in this group, which obviously we support. I thank the Minister for securing this—albeit limited—concession. However, these amendments do not prevent street drinking away from pavement-licensed areas and neither does Labour’s Amendment 39 in this group, albeit that it restricts it to street drinking from plastic cups.

Our Amendment 40 restricts off-sales in open containers to pavement-licensed areas, beer gardens and the like, but also supports businesses by allowing alcohol to be taken away from restaurants, pubs and bars in sealed containers. If the restaurant or pub is too full when you get there—because of social distancing, for example—it allows you to take alcohol home from those premises in an unopened bottle, can or other sealed container, as currently applies to existing off- licences, supporting hard-pressed businesses as a result. Amendment 41, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, does not allow alcohol to be taken away from the premises under any circumstances, which would hinder trade.

In a meeting with Ministers last week, the Government agreed to discuss Amendment 40 with us before Report but they have failed to do so. I explained in Committee why existing provisions and the provisions in the Bill are inadequate to deal with street drinking and disorder. As a consequence, I give notice that I intend to divide the House on Amendment 40.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken on this group of amendments and to those who have welcomed the government amendments. I take the opportunity to reiterate to the House that the government amendments in this group will introduce a standard cessation time of 11 pm for operators to trade under the new off-sales permissions or—I reiterate to my noble friend Lord Balfe —until the current licensing hours for that premises end, whichever is earlier. If that is 10 pm in Cambridge, that is the time it will be. As has always been the case with this measure, the new provisions will not affect premises’ underlying licences. They provide for new permissions that will apply to the holders of on-sales-only licences, and more restrictive dual licences that allow for off-sales under more restrictive conditions than are provided for under the new permission.

Amendment 45 will further help to ensure that the new permissions work for and not against local communities, as I said. It will do this by limiting the ability of premises to carry out off-sales under the new permissions where they are already limited from selling alcohol for consumption in an outdoor area of the premises. That is, if a premises cannot use its outdoor area beyond a particular time, it will not be permitted to carry out off-sales beyond that time under the new permission either. Where such restrictions apply, it is likely that a licensing authority has imposed the conditions to reduce the risk of noise nuisance or anti-social behaviour to local residents. These conditions should therefore remain in place. I hope that noble Lords will welcome these amendments, and again I thank those who led to their tabling today.

Amendments 30, 35 and 37 from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, seek similarly to restrict the hours when the new off-sales permissions apply. I thank the noble Lord for his constructive engagement as the Bill has moved through the House and hope that, given my explanation of our amendments, he will feel that he does not need to move his amendments when they are called.

Briefly, I know that my noble friend Lady Stowell did not move her amendment, but I will relay some of the points that we have discussed. For the sale of alcohol for consumption in outside areas already part of the licensed premises, such as a beer garden, those sales are defined as on-sales and premises will therefore not require a new permission to carry out this function. However, if premises wish to sell alcohol for consumption in bordering outside areas that are not on the premises plan as part of the existing licensed premises, they will still require an off-sales permission in order to do so. That might include an area they seek to occupy following the successful application of a pavement licence.

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Moved by
31: Clause 11, page 9, line 8, after “a” insert “pre-cut off”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s amendment at page 8, line 33.
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Moved by
36: Clause 11, page 9, line 26, after “off-sales” insert “at a pre-cut off time”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s amendment at page 8, line 33.
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Moved by
38: Clause 11, page 9, line 31, after “off-sales” insert “at a pre-cut off time”
Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement for the Minister’s amendment at page 8, line 33.
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, I support the amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Holmes of Richmond and Lord Addington, relating to small breweries and sporting clubs. I am a bit disappointed that the Government have not found a way to do something here. We hear lots of talk about supporting small business, but we seem to be in a rigid situation, where we cannot move out of where we are. I do not see why we could not do something and it is regrettable that we could not find a way. I accept that breweries do not have licences now, but they could be given something temporarily. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, made the point that sports clubs are often open only a couple of nights a week. Why have we not sorted them out? In this emergency Bill to deal with Covid-19, we have chosen to ignore them, and that is regrettable. I do not see why the Government have done that. They could have moved a bit more on that. I support the amendments, and it is regrettable that there will be no progress on them.

A convincing case has been laid out for Amendment 52, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and other noble Lords. I supported the idea in Committee. Equally, I see some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and I accept that this is a temporary Bill; perhaps doing something permanent in a temporary Bill may be a problem, but the least we should get tonight is a commitment. Technically, this can be done and the Government should get on and make sure that it happens.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, particularly for the interest in Amendment 52, tabled by my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lord Bourne and the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Clement-Jones, on digital age verification. I could agree with virtually everything said in the debate on this amendment. I am very keen to progress this agenda, and it was in discussing this that my noble friend and I realised that we had a mutual interest in moving this agenda forward—she as a former Digital Minister and me dealing with data and identity in the Home Office.

The Government have carefully considered the concerns raised by this amendment. We support its aims, and we believe that a more holistic approach is needed to enable the use of digital identity in compliance with age-verification requirements in the Licensing Act for the sale of alcohol. As I explained in Committee, the protection of children from harm is an objective that all licensed premises should promote. Age verification plays a critical role in this and it is essential that we have confidence in the forms of identification presented as proof of age to promote this licensing objective. As my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering said, the PASS accredits a number of national and local suppliers of ID cards, offering retailers flexibility to choose an appropriate card to fit their needs and fulfil their licence condition.

At present it is not possible to use a digital ID as proof of age for the purchase of alcohol in the UK due to the lack of an agreed industry standard for digital ID. Without trusted digital identity standards in place, licence holders cannot know that market solutions are fit for purpose. This would make it very difficult for them to meet the reasonable precautions and due diligence requirements described in Amendment 52. The lack of an equivalent national standard for digital ID would lead to uncertainty.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was correct in saying that movement on this is slow. I share his frustration and I know that my noble friend, a former Digital Minister, does too, but we do not think it is right to place licence holders in a position in which they are being asked to accept proof of ID without a set of agreed standards, even on temporarily. To do so may place them at risk of committing a criminal offence.

Although the Government are resisting this amendment, we do not disagree with—in fact we are very supportive of—the principle of digital ID. I set out in Committee some of the steps we are taking to progress work in this area. A call for evidence was launched last summer and the responses overwhelmingly agreed that the Government have a role in developing a framework for digital ID use in the UK. Respondents stressed the need for legal certainty on how to use digital identity. The Government will consult on developing legislation to set provisions for consumer protection relating to digital ID, specific rights for individuals, an ability to seek redress if something goes wrong and where responsibility for oversight should lie. The Government will also consult on the appropriate privacy and technical standards for secure digital identity. Sufficient oversight of these standards needs to be established to build trust and to facilitate innovation, which will provide organisations with a handrail to develop new, future-facing products, which I know is exactly what my noble friend seeks.

The Government plan to update existing laws on identity checking to enable digital ID to be used in the greatest number of circumstances. However, it is only when the framework and, most importantly, the standards are in place that we can expect industry and citizens to trust and have confidence in using and accepting digital IDs. Now, knowing our mutual interest in this subject, I hope that the Government and I will be able to draw on my noble friend’s considerable experience in this area as plans develop. I invite her to engage with Ministers and officials on this work as it develops. I am happy to give a commitment, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Barran, that we will work together with my noble friend towards our shared aspiration. To be honest, after four years in the Home Office I am glad that I have found someone interested in my policy area of digital ID and data. I hope that, with that commitment, my noble friend will support me in my longer-term vision for digital identities and will not move her amendment when it is reached.

I now turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Holmes. As noble Lords will be aware, the provisions in the Bill add permission for off-sales to most premises with an existing on-sales premises licence. It is not a mechanism to amend the process by which premises licences are granted.

I shall deal with Amendments 42, 43 and 50, tabled by my noble friend Lord Holmes, first. My noble friend has spoken passionately in support of small breweries. He is right to say that they have thrived over the past few years and we do not want to lose that. They are important. I note his point that his amendments could help breweries to sell alcohol to the public. However, as I said in Committee, we feel that any proposal that a business should be given a full premises licence without proper scrutiny by the local licensing authority, the police or the public is a step too far.

Similarly, with regard to Amendment 51, we are not currently seeking to make changes to the number of temporary event notices available for application in one year. Temporary licences granted for a limited period should not be used as a route to a permanent licence. As I have set out, there are crucial scrutiny mechanisms in place for granting them to ensure that all premises are selling alcohol responsibly.

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Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe [V]
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My Lords, I was a little disappointed by my noble friend the Minister’s response, especially given our shared aspiration to get digital ID to come in. Will she agree to either a meeting or a letter to talk in a little more detail about the timing of digital ID—recognising that there are some difficulties but that she has made some good progress with her call for evidence? We could also discuss whether there is anything to be done on the enforcement of age verification for alcohol during the Covid-19 period, perhaps using an easement of the kind that I mentioned to her has been used by some other departments.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I would be delighted to meet my noble friend to discuss making progress on this. As I say, I am very glad to have a friend in digital identity.

Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who participated in this group of amendments. I am very attracted to Amendment 52, along with many noble Lords who both spoke and signed up to the amendment. My only reason for not signing was that it already had the support that it needed. It illustrates the need across Government to up the activity of all potential digital applications. We have world-leading businesses in digital. We need to look at every possible opportunity and means of enabling them to flourish and solve problems which have dogged our society for decades. We have the tools to do so, and Amendment 52 is but one clear and effective example of that.

I thank my noble friend the Minister for, as she said, her fulsome response. As always, she addressed all the issues which were raised with her. I am slightly disappointed that we could not go further to assist innovative businesses in our country. I understand the points that she raised, and I accept them, but would she be prepared to join me on a visit to a small independent brewery to hear at first hand the issues such businesses are facing? Through that discussion, perhaps we could consider whether there is anything else we could do to help this vibrant, innovative sector of our economy and society moving forward. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I can tell my noble friend that I would love to come with him to a brewery.

Amendment 42 withdrawn.