Business and Planning Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Edward MilibandMain Page: Edward Miliband (Labour) - Doncaster North)
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(2 months ago)Commons Chamber
This Bill is an essential part of the Government’s response to the effects of covid-19 and the restrictions that have been keeping people safe. We know that these restrictions have come at a considerable cost to our economy and to people’s lives. We all have constituents who are desperate to get back to work— desperate to get back to their normal lives. This Bill will help to make that happen. This Bill will help the country get back on its feet.
The amendments that we are considering this evening do not disrupt the thrust of the Bill as it left this House. In fact, they improve it. It is worth remembering that when this Bill was last in this House we debated it over one afternoon—unusually fast, as several hon. and right hon. Members have said—to ensure that it would come into force before the summer recess and give the greatest possible benefit to the country. The Bill has received more extensive consideration in the other place, and I hope that we can agree the amendments.
I am grateful to hon. and right hon. Members for their constructive engagement with the Bill. I am particularly grateful to the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and his colleagues in the Opposition for their collaboration. Members’ thoughtfulness and involvement have been a great help in improving this legislation, and I am pleased with the result of our deliberations. I should also like to recognise parliamentary counsel, the legal advisers and staff of the other place and of this House for marshalling this Bill through all its stages.
I shall briefly summarise the amendments that have been made in the other place. First, we have improved the pavement licensing measures in several ways. We have ensured that authorities must have regard to the needs of disabled people when considering whether to grant a pavement licence, and we have ensured that non-smoking areas will be provided by businesses that are granted pavement licences. We have also ensured that local authorities can delegate decisions about pavement licences to sub-committees or to officials, and that regulations issued by Government will be laid before Parliament. Those amendments are in keeping with the policy intention of the pavement licence provisions and improve them. I therefore hope that the House will support the amendments.
Secondly, we have amended the provisions about off-sales of alcohol to combat antisocial behaviour. I am especially grateful to hon. Members for their involvement in this issue—especially my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan); my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), who brought to bear her considerable experience as the leader of a London council; and the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), who spoke eloquently when we last debated the matter in this House. I believe that collectively, they have improved the Bill. The Bill now limits off-sales to 11 pm at the latest, and any new permissions will not allow the sale of alcohol for consumption in outdoor areas of the premises that are already restricted by the premises licence. Making off-sales of alcohol easier will help the hospitality industry to recover more quickly, but in a way that does not encourage antisocial behaviour.
Thirdly, we have increased the extension of planning permission by one month. This is a modest extension, but it will provide further certainty and reassurance to developers and local authorities that planning permissions will not lapse unnecessarily as a result of the pandemic. Fourthly, in response to the report by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, any extension to the provisions can be made only when it is
“necessary or appropriate for a purpose linked to the coronavirus pandemic.”
That is an important clarification.
Finally, the Bill now amends section 78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 so that the Government can make regulations to enable specific authorities to conduct their meetings remotely. These authorities were omitted from the Coronavirus Act because of the speed with which that legislation was passed, and now is the appropriate time to include them. I hope the House will agree these Lords amendments.
I am sure that hon. and right hon. Members agree that businesses throughout our country need the benefit of these provisions this summer. As someone once put it, we need to help to fix the economy while the sun is shining. If we do not pass this Bill today, it will not take effect until the autumn, and the country will lose out on the valuable provisions over the summer months. The Bill has been much improved and scrutinised in the other place, and it is an example of how Parliament can work quickly and effectively in the national interest and set the United Kingdom on a path to recovery. I therefore trust that the House will support all the Lords amendments.
I rise to support these amendments. On Second Reading, I called for a restriction on alcohol off-sales to 11 pm, so I am delighted that that amendment has been accepted. We need to strike the right balance between getting our economy up and running and the interests of residents, who in certain parts of London have been subject to a lot of anti-social behaviour—in particular, in Notting Hill in my constituency. These amendments strike the right balance, and I commend them to the House.