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New Clause 19

Volume 407: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Common Land: Modifications

'After section 62C of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33) (inserted by section (Failure to comply with direction: seizure)) insert—

"62D Common land: modifications

(1) In their application to common land sections 62A to 62C have effect with these modifications.

(2) References to trespassing and trespassers have effect as if they were references to acts, and persons doing acts, which constitute—

  • (a) a trespass as against the occupier, or
  • (b) an infringement of the commoners' rights.
  • (3) References to the occupier—

  • (a) in the case of land to which the public has access, include the local authority and any commoner;
  • (b) in any other case, include the commoners or any of them.
  • (4) Subsection (1) does not—

  • (a) require action by more than one occupier, or
  • (b) constitute persons trespassers as against any commoner or the local authority if they are permitted to be there by the other occupier.
  • (5) In this section "common land", "commoner" and "the local authority" have the meanings given by section 61."'

    [Mr. Heppell.]

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 20

    Interpretation

    'After section 62D of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33) (inserted by section (Common land: modifications)) insert—

    "62E Sections 62A to 62D: interpretation

    (1) Subsections (2) to (8) apply for the interpretation of sections 62A to 62D and this section.

    (2) "Land" does not include buildings other than—

  • (a) agricultural buildings within the meaning of paragraphs 3 to 8 of Schedule 5 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988, or
  • (b) scheduled monuments within the meaning of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
  • (3) "Local authority" means—

  • (a) in Greater London, a London borough or the Common Council of the City of London;
  • (b) in England outside Greater London, a county council, a district council or the Council of the Isles of Scilly;
  • (c) in Wales, a county council or a county borough council.
  • (4) "Occupier", "trespass", "trespassing" and "trespasser" have the meanings given by section 61 in relation to England and Wales.

    (5) "The relevant land" means the land in respect of which a direction under section 62A(1) is given.

    (6) "The relevant local authority" means—

  • (a) if the relevant land is situated in the area of more than one local authority (but is not in the Isles of Scilly), the district council or county borough council within whose area the relevant land is situated;
  • (b) if the relevant land is situated in the Isles of Scilly, the Council of the Isles of Scilly;
  • (c) in any other case, the local authority within whose area the relevant land is situated.
  • (7) "Vehicle" has the meaning given by section 61.

    (8) A person may be regarded as having a purpose of residing in a place even if he has a home elsewhere."'

    [Mr. Heppell.]

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 21

    Aggravated Trespass

    (1) The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33) is amended as follows.

    (2) In section 68 (offence of aggravated trespass), in subsection (1) (which defines the offence by reference to trespass on land in the open air and lawful activity on land in the open air) omit "in the open air" in both places where those words appear.

    (3) In section 69 (powers to remove persons committing or participating in aggravated trespass), in subsection (1) (which confers the power by reference to trespass on land in the open air) omit "in the open air" in both places where those words appear:— [Mr. Heppell.]

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    New Clause 22

    Public Assemblies

    'In section 16 of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64) (which defines "public assembly" for the purposes of the power in section 14 of that Act to impose conditions on public assemblies), in the definition of "public assembly" for "20" substitute "2".'— [Mr. Heppell.]

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    Schedule 3

    Repeals

    Amendments made: No. 9, in page 55, leave out lines 8 and 9.

    No. 79, in page 55, line 13, at end insert—

    'Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33)

    In section 68(1), "in the open air" in both places.

    In section 69(1), "in the open air" in both places.'

    No. 34, in page 55, column 2, leave out line 24 and insert—

    'In Schedule 6—

    (a) in paragraph 3(2), the words "and paragraph 4 below" and paragraph (e), and (b) paragraph 4.'.— [Mr. Heppell.]

    Clause 57

    Commencement

    Amendment made: No. 32, in page 43, line 6, after 'Act', insert

    '(other than subsections (8) to (10) of section 36)'.— [Mr. Heppell.]

    Clause 60

    Extent

    Amendment made: No. 78, in page 43, line 33, after '7' insert

    'and sections (Power to remove trespassers: alternative site available) to (Public assemblies)'— [Mr. Heppell.]

    Order for Third Reading read.

    7.18 pm

    I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    I want to thank not only my hon. Friends on the Front Bench for their sterling efforts today, but my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth) and his colleagues who saw the Bill through Committee. I commend Members of all parties who served on the Committee for the extremely vigorous way in which the Bill was dealt with, especially by my own Back-Benchers who think that I am not going far enough. I should like them to write an article in The Independent newspaper explaining why I am not tough and courageous enough in dealing with these issues, which would undoubtedly change my image enormously overnight with its readers. I shall be brief, as I realise that the Third Reading debate is truncated owing to the very serious statement that has to be made afterwards, and I want other hon. Members to be able to take part.

    The truth of the Bill is that we can give people the powers to do the job—whether in housing, environmental health, the police service or local government more broadly—and we can encourage the local community to take up the issues and to be part of the solution, but unless the people who have the power at their disposal are prepared to use it, and unless the magistrates and district judges are prepared to enforce it, all of us in Committee and on the Floor of the House will have wasted our time.

    The Bill, like similar legislation that my right hon. Friend has introduced, is crucial in dealing with the most fundamental changes occurring in our society. Does he agree that, while we can legislate, we need to see the measures enacted locally? I hope that, when the Bill goes to the Lords, my proposal for a pilot scheme for electing community prosecution officers will be seriously considered.

    I knew that my right hon. Friend would get that in. It is a very interesting idea. In regard to the pamphlet that I published a couple of weeks ago and the discussions that I have been having with the Attorney-General, it will undoubtedly feature in terms of how we lift the profile of prosecution and, above all, how we ensure that the voice of the community—not a vicious, reactionary, mob-rule voice—is heard on behalf of the victim and of those who face the scourge of antisocial behaviour.

    I appeal to magistrates to ensure that breaches of orders or of bail, and sheer antisocial actions within the courts, are dealt with decisively. There are so many examples now of action being taken. In the past, quite lengthy bureaucracy has been struggled through, local residents have patiently kept diaries and appealed to housing authorities to be decisive and to send the right signals to ensure that the message got across, yet when the case was brought, the defendant was patted on the head as though they were on a Sunday school outing. I am not talking about first-time offenders here. Of course we are all in favour of rehabilitation and restitution, and of ensuring that we give people a chance. We are in favour of preventive action and of intervention. The diversionary schemes that were so important over the holiday period last year worked, and could work again this summer.

    We are also going to send a message to the thugs and mindless vandals. We are going to send a message to those in Wrexham last night who were engaged in nothing but sheer mindless thuggery and antisocial behaviour, while trying to present a picture that they were somehow engaged in some activity to do with social cohesion. They were simply causing mayhem and disorder, and we will clamp down on them wherever and whenever such behaviour occurs. If everyone will join us—regardless of party, and without rancour or division—in getting this right, we can change that culture. We can change society back to create more orderly, less brutal and more acceptable neighbourhoods.

    The amendments that have gone through in Committee and today are a measure of improvement, whether they relate to housing and are linked to the Bill that will be taken through by my hon. Friends in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, to residential orders, to the action on graffiti, or to unauthorised encampments.

    My goodness me! Gender before beauty—no! I meant that I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Liz Blackman) first.

    I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. He has rightly pointed out that the Bill will not be worth the paper that it is written on unless its measures are enforced, and we all have a role to play in that. Could he just flesh out a little more what role the Government will play in that, because we have a lot to learn about the progress of antisocial behaviour orders? They are implemented in some areas of the country, but still not in others. How do we drive up the effective action of local partnerships in the areas in which these issues are not being taken seriously at the moment?

    Significant progress has been made. I think that about 1,000 orders have now been taken out, along with the interim orders, and progress is being made rapidly. I invite Members from all parties to make contact with the new antisocial behaviour unit, which is a cross-government operation headed by the tenacious Louise Casey, who makes one or two of my friends on the Back Benches look quite mild when dealing with these matters. Members should get in touch because we will be able to provide support, help, guidance and, above all, rigour in terms of what local people need.

    We are not just working with the agencies or the departments in local authorities; we are working with local neighbourhood groups such as neighbourhood watch and others. This will represent a new style for the Government. Yes, we are putting the powers in place, but we are also empowering people to be able to use them themselves. I think that that will make a difference.

    The moment I mentioned encampments, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) tried to intervene on me, and I promised to give way to him. I shall do so now.

    I welcome my right hon. Friend's introduction into the Bill of the measures on travellers. This will raise expectations in the country, so will he take this opportunity to stress that the new clauses will require implementation by the police and clear action by the local authorities to develop temporary camp sites, to enable the powers to be usable? The public need to expect the local authorities to take such action so that these welcome measures will have the effect that people want them to have.

    I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for making that point. He not only nurtured this issue because of his experience of it in his constituency; he also parented the early part of the Bill with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East. I thank him for that, and I want to ensure that the time that he spent and the work that he did will not be wasted.

    I would also like to mention aggravated trespass and police conditions on assemblies, because these measures will help us enormously in dealing with the so-called animal rights activists who are vandals and terrorists in their own right. I have to say that, sadly, many of them are also engaged in criminality to fund their activities. We may disagree on some of the detail in the Bill and on whether we shall be able to enforce everything in it. What none of us disagrees on, however, is that it is necessary to take this action.

    7.26 pm

    The Home Secretary has referred to the importance of the Bill, and he is absolutely right. It seeks to address an issue that is, as became obvious throughout the proceedings of the Committee, of great concern to every one of us, whichever part of the country or political party we represent. A number of provisions in the Bill have caused concern. I, too, want to thank the former Minister, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth) and, indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), who appeared once or twice during the proceedings, for the constructive way in which they addressed the Committee's proceedings and the amendments that we had tabled.

    I have been encouraged by today's results because, by my reckoning, there are at least eight separate areas in which the Government have come forward with amendments or new clauses addressing issues that we raised in Committee. The hon. Member for Coventry, North-East gesticulates; I appreciate his having taken our points seriously. Many of those amendments are almost the same, word for word, as those that I tabled in Committee. Obviously, that gives me some pleasure. It also demonstrates that the Government have listened to our arguments, and I welcome that.

    I particularly want to refer to two of the issues that the Home Secretary has just mentioned. The first is the issue of travellers, to which the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) referred. We debated that at considerable length in Committee as a result of new clauses that I had tabled, and I very much welcome the two new clauses that the Government have tabled. Questions remain to be asked, however, which will need to be pursued in another place, particularly on the issue of alternative sites. The right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen referred to the importance of the police and local authorities playing their part in enforcing the legislation. I hope that the issue of alternative sites will not be a loophole that will mean that the whole clause cannot be properly put into effect. We shall need to pursue that matter in another place.

    The new provisions on aggravated trespass and assemblies, to which the Home Secretary also referred, are almost exactly the same, word for word, as those that I tabled in Committee, and I very much welcome them. The Home Secretary rightly condemned the so-called animal rights activists. This is not about the rights and wrongs of animal experimentation; it is about the ability of legitimate firms and their employees to go about their daily business without intimidation or threat.

    I welcome the Government's agreement to those amendments, which were suggested by the Bioindustry Association. I also welcome the measures that the Government have so far taken on airguns. I remain of the view that some of the other new clauses need further attention, and we will raise those matters in the other place.

    One of the themes throughout the debate in Committee, which was taken up again just now by the hon. Member for Erewash (Liz Blackman), was enforcement. The Home Secretary referred to the fact that we can pass the legislation but others have to enforce it. On Second Reading, the Opposition's view was that much of the Bill was unnecessary, as we believed that many of the powers that the Government were providing already existed in different forms, and what was necessary was that they should be properly enforced. The Government have proceeded with the Bill and have introduced these powers, some of them with the amendments that I have described.

    It is absolutely clear that it does not matter how many powers are provided in legislation, unless all the forces of law and order are prepared to implement them effectively, our efforts are as nought. Although I remain of the view that some of the powers in the Bill are unnecessary, and that existing legislation, if properly enforced, could have dealt with the problems, I am extremely anxious that, having gone through this process, these powers in different sectors are properly enforced.

    I rarely, as a matter of practice, refer to detailed constituency affairs, but I want to mention a short letter received from the Crown Prosecution Service. I shall paraphrase it because I do not want the case to be identifiable. Two youths broke into school premises, and they were arrested and charged by Cambridgeshire police. The CPS has written to the head teacher of that secondary school and said that it will not prosecute those youths, because it believes that the resulting sentence is likely to be extremely light and thus would give the wrong signal to those who might commit such offences. I have written to the CPS asking what signal does it think that gives. I am happy to send the Home Secretary the text of the letter.

    Obviously, it would be wrong to identify the case at the present time, but it shows the uphill task that we face. The Home Secretary describes a world in which we can restore some semblance of law and order on our streets and deal with this low level crime of antisocial behaviour. It is a world in which people feel that their community belongs to them, not to the louts. If we are to achieve that, it will require everyone's best efforts.

    Despite our reservations, we believe that the Bill goes some way towards that goal. Therefore, we do not oppose it. Some provisions need to be improved, but we wish it well and, more importantly, we wish its enforcement well.

    7.33 pm

    I associate myself with the tone of the contributions made by the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice). We are all charged with finding a way to reduce antisocial behaviour and to create a society in which greater respect is shown by one person for another. We may have differences about how we achieve that, but that is certainly a common objective.

    I expressly share the Home Secretary's views about the events in Wrexham over the past couple of days, and I wish to associate myself with his comments on that subject. I commend the work of the police, who were confronted with an unacceptable series of events. I also commend the local elected representatives. I heard the mayor speak this morning, and he was clear that there was no justification for such lawless, unacceptable intolerance, especially as it was founded on a specious premise. That community has traditionally been happy, prosperous and settled. If it cannot, with understanding and compassion, accommodate a few people who have been accepted into the community, there is something severely wrong with the perpetrators of those crimes.

    The Home Secretary and his colleagues will know that my hon. Friends and I agree with some parts of the Bill, such as part 1 dealing with crack houses. Clearly, we all sign up to those proposals, and we need to get them right. We also welcome the proposals on firearms. It is important that we get a grip of the antisocial use of firearms in both urban and rural areas.

    Ministers will also appreciate that we have differences of principle. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke), supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green), sought in Committee to put our amendments. They did not prevail, so we must ask ourselves whether, if we were in government, we would want the Bill on the statute book, and the answer is no" as there is still a lot to do to it. We will divide the House on Third Reading to register that view.

    We are concerned about the process that takes people too quickly from demoted tenancy to losing their house. We also think that it is entirely inappropriate for teachers or school staff to serve fixed penalty notices under part 3. The argument may be made for the director of education or the senior education welfare officer to do that, but it is not a job that should be given to teachers or to the people responsible for the welfare and support of children.

    Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that his opposition to these measures is included in every Liberal Democrat leaflet that is given out up and down the country?

    I assure the right hon. Gentleman that my colleagues and I have been clear that antisocial behaviour, properly defined, is entirely unacceptable. However, we believe that the best method to deal with that is not increased, discriminatory, authoritarian powers, but a proactive, supportive approach. There should be alternative activities for young people, and more resources, more police, more community support officers and the rest. We have been clear that we support some measures but not others.

    We made clear our opposition to the powers to disperse groups, which we believe are unnecessary. There are many powers on the statute book that can be used. Many people outside the House share our view that these powers go far too far. The objection to the fixed penalty notices in part 5 is that the pilot has not yet finished and we have not seen the evidence. There is no case yet for extending that measure, let alone extending it to teenagers and to children aged 10 upwards. It is unacceptable that those who are least likely to pay or to be able to afford to pay, and against whom the measure is least likely to be enforced, should be subject to a new fine collecting system that has not been tried and tested.

    We accept some parts of the Bill, but it is entirely unacceptable that people of 16 or 17, who are adults, can go to work, pay taxes and serve their country, are not allowed to buy cans of spray paint that they can use legitimately.

    We have made our position clear. We will work with the Government, despite our differences in this place. We hope that the indication from the Home Secretary, from Ministers and from Conservative Front-Bench Members will be that further work will be done on the Bill in the House of Lords. We hope that, by the time that it ends its passage in the House of Lords, it will be a much better Bill. We will work to win by argument what we have not won today by vote. We hope that the Government realise that it is the positive, proactive alternatives that reduce crime and deal with the causes of crime. That was our view at the beginning; that remains our view now. We will continue to argue that view both today and during the remaining stages of the Bill.

    Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 419, Noes 43.

    Division No. 252]

    [7:39 pm

    AYES

    Abbott, Ms DianeBurgon, Colin
    Ainger, NickBurnham, Andy
    Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)Burns, Simon
    Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Burt, Alistair
    Alexander, DouglasButterfill, John
    Amess, DavidByers, rh Stephen
    Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)Caborn, rh Richard
    Armstrong, rh Ms HilaryCairns, David
    Atherton, Ms CandyCampbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
    Atkins, CharlotteCampbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
    Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
    Bacon, RichardCampbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
    Bailey, AdrianCaplin, Ivor
    Barker, GregoryCash, William
    Barnes, HarryCaton, Martin
    Baron, John (Billericay)Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
    Battle, JohnChallen, Colin
    Beard, NigelChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
    Begg, Miss AnneChaytor, David
    Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)Chope, Christopher
    Bellingham, HenryClapham, Michael
    Benn, HilaryClappison, James
    Bennett, AndrewClark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
    Benton, Joe (Bootle)Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
    Bercow, John
    Best, HaroldClark, Paul (Gillingham)
    Blackman, LizClarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
    Blears, Ms Hazel
    Blunkett, rh DavidClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
    Blunt, CrispinClelland, David
    Borrow, DavidClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
    Boswell, TimClwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
    Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Coaker, Vernon
    Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)Coffey, Ms Ann
    Coleman, Iain
    Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)Collins, Tim
    Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Colman, Tony
    Bradshaw, BenConnarty, Michael
    Brady, GrahamConway, Derek
    Brazier, JulianCook, Frank (Stockton N)
    Brennan, KevinCook, rh Robin (Livingston)
    Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Corston, Jean
    Browning, Mrs AngelaCousins, Jim
    Bryant, ChrisCranston, Ross
    Buck, Ms KarenCruddas, Jon

    Cryer, Ann (Keighley)Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
    Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
    Cummings, John
    Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)Hayes, John (S Holland)
    Cunningham, Tony (Workington)Healey, John
    Curtis-Thomas, Mrs ClaireHeathcoat-Amory, rh David
    Dalyell, TamHenderson, Ivan (Harwich)
    Darling, rh AlistairHendrick, Mark
    Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Hendry, Charles
    David, WayneHepburn, Stephen
    Davidson, IanHeppell, John
    Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)Hermon, Lady
    Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)Hesford, Stephen
    Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
    Hinchliffe, David
    Dean, Mrs JanetHoban, Mark (Fareham)
    Denham, rh JohnHodge, Margaret
    Dhanda, ParmjitHoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
    Dobson, rh FrankHoon, rh Geoffrey
    Dodds, NigelHope, Phil (Corby)
    Donohoe, Brian H.Hopkins, Kelvin
    Doran, FrankHoram, John (Orpington)
    Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
    Drew, David (Stroud)
    Duncan, Alan (Rutland)Howells, Dr. Kim
    Duncan, Peter (Galloway)Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
    Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
    Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
    Edwards, HuwHumble, Mrs Joan
    Efford, CliveHume, John (Foyle)
    Ellman, Mrs LouiseHurst, Alan (Braintree)
    Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)Iddon, Dr. Brian
    Evans, NigelIllsley, Eric
    Ewing, AnnabelleIrranca-Davies, Huw
    Fabricant, MichaelJack, rh Michael
    Fallon, MichaelJackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
    Farrelly, Paul
    Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
    Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)Jamieson, David
    Jenkin, Bernard
    Fisher, MarkJenkins, Brian
    Fitzpatrick, JimJohnson, Alan (Hull W)
    Fitzsimons, Mrs LornaJohnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
    Flight, Howard
    Flint, CarolineJones, Helen (Warrington N)
    Flook, AdrianJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
    Follett, BarbaraJones, Kevan (N Durham)
    Forth, rh EricJones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
    Foster, rh DerekJones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
    Foster, Michael (Worcester)Jowell, rh Tessa
    Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
    Kaufman, rh Gerald
    Francis, Dr. HywelKeeble, Ms Sally
    Francois, MarkKeen, Alan (Feltham)
    Gale, Roger (N Thanet)Kemp, Fraser
    Gardiner, BarryKhabra, Piara S.
    Garnier, EdwardKidney, David
    Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)Kilfoyle, Peter
    Gibson, Dr. IanKing, Andy (Rugby)
    Gilroy, LindaKing, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
    Godsiff, Roger
    Goggins, PaulKirkbride, Miss Julie
    Goodman, PaulLadyman, Dr. Stephen
    Grayling, ChrisLaing, Mrs Eleanor
    Green, Damian (Ashford)Lait, Mrs Jacqui
    Greenway, JohnLammy, David
    Grieve, DominicLeigh, Edward
    Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Lepper, David
    Grogan, JohnLeslie, Christopher
    Gummer, rh JohnLetwin, rh Oliver
    Hague, rh WilliamLevitt, Tom (High Peak)
    Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
    Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
    Hamilton, David (Midlothian)Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
    Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Liddell-Grainger, Ian
    Hanson, DavidLidington, David

    Lilley, rh PeterPlaskitt, James
    Loughton, TimPollard, Kerry
    Love, AndrewPond, Chris (Gravesham)
    Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
    Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)Portillo, rh Michael
    Luke, Iain (Dundee E)Pound, Stephen
    Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
    McAvoy, ThomasPrimarolo, rh Dawn
    McCabe, StephenPrisk, Mark (Hertford)
    McCartney, rh IanProsser, Gwyn
    McDonagh, SiobhainPurchase, Ken
    MacDonald, CalumPurnell, James
    McDonnell, JohnRammell, Bill
    MacDougall, JohnRandall, John
    McIntosh, Miss AnneRapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
    McIsaac, ShonaRaynsford, rh Nick
    Mackay, rh AndrewRedwood, rh John
    McKechin, AnnReed, Andy (Loughborough)
    Mackinlay, AndrewReid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
    Maclean, rh David
    McLoughlin, PatrickRobathan, Andrew
    McNulty, TonyRobertson, Angus (Moray)
    MacShane, DenisRobertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
    Mactaggart, Fiona
    McWalter, TonyRobertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
    McWilliam, John
    Mahon, Mrs AliceRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
    Mallaber, JudyRobinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
    Mandelson, rh PeterRobinson, Peter (Belfast E)
    Mann, John (Bassetlaw)Roe, Mrs Marion
    Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)Rooney, Terry
    Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Rosindell, Andrew
    Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Ruane, Chris
    Martlew, EricRuddock, Joan
    Maude, rh FrancisRuffley, David
    May, Mrs TheresaRussell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
    Merron, Gillian
    Michael, rh AlunRyan, Joan (Enfield N)
    Milburn, rh AlanSalmond, Alex
    Miliband, DavidSalter, Martin
    Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)Sarwar, Mohammad
    Savidge, Malcolm
    Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)Sawford, Phil
    Moffatt, LauraSayeed, Jonathan
    Mole, ChrisSedgemore, Brian
    Moonie, Dr. LewisSelous, Andrew
    Morgan, JulieShaw, Jonathan
    Morley, ElliotSheerman, Barry
    Morris, rh EstelleSheridan, Jim
    Moss, MalcolmSimmonds, Mark
    Mountford, KaliSimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
    Mudie, GeorgeSimpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
    Mullin, ChrisSingh, Marsha
    Munn, Ms MegSmith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
    Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
    Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)Smith, John (Glamorgan)
    Murrison, Dr. AndrewSmyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
    Naysmith, Dr. DougSoley, Clive
    Norman, ArchieSpicer, Sir Michael
    Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)Spring, Richard
    O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Stanley, rh Sir John
    O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
    Olner, BillSteinberg, Gerry
    Organ, DianaStewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
    Osborne, George (Tatton)
    Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)Stoate, Dr. Howard
    Ottaway, RichardStreeter, Gary
    Owen, AlbertStringer, Graham
    Page, RichardStuart, Ms Gisela
    Paice, JamesSutcliffe, Gerry
    Palmer, Dr. NickSwire, Hugo (E Devon)
    Paterson, OwenSyms, Robert
    Picking, AnneTami, Mark (Alyn)
    Pickles, EricTaylor, Dari (Stockton S)
    Pickthall, ColinTaylor, Ian (Esher)
    Pike, Peter (Burnley)Taylor, John (Solihull)

    Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)Wiggin, Bill
    Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)Willetts, David
    Tipping, PaddyWilliams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
    Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)Williams, Betty (Conwy)
    Touhig, Don (Islwyn)Wills, Michael
    Tredinnick, DavidWilshire, David
    Truswell, PaulWinnick, David
    Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
    Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
    Turner, Neil (Wigan)
    Twigg, Derek (Halton)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
    Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
    Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)Wishart, Pete
    Tyrie, AndrewWood, Mike (Batley)
    Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)Woolas, Phil
    Walley, Ms JoanWorthington, Tony
    Wareing, Robert N.Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
    Waterson, Nigel
    Watkinson, AngelaWright, David (Telford)
    Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)Wright, Tony (Cannock)
    Weir, MichaelWyatt, Derek
    White, Brian
    Whitehead, Dr. Alan

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Wicks, Malcolm

    Ms Bridget Prentice and

    Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann

    Margaret Moran

    NOES

    Allan, RichardLlwyd, Elfyn
    Baker, NormanMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
    Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
    Breed, ColinMoore, Michael
    Burnett, JohnOaten, Mark (Winchester)
    Burstow, PaulÖpik, Lembit
    Cable, Dr. VincentPrice, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
    Calton, Mrs Patsy
    Chidgey, DavidReid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
    Cotter, BrianRendel, David
    Davey, Edward (Kingston)Russell, Bob (Colchester)
    Doughty, SueSanders, Adrian
    Foster, Don (Bath)Thomas Simon (Ceredigion)
    George, Andrew (St. Ives)Thurso, John
    Gidley, SandraTonge, Dr. Jenny
    Green, Matthew (Ludlow)Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
    Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)Webb, Steve (Northavon)
    Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
    Harvey, NickWilliams, Roger (Brecon)
    Heath, DavidWillis, Phil
    Holmes, PaulYounger-Ross, Richard
    Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
    Keetch, Paul

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Kirkwood, Sir Archy

    Mr. Andrew Stunell and

    Laws, David (Yeovil)

    Mrs. Annette L. Brooke

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Bill read the Third time, and passed.

    Iraq (British Forces)

    7.53 pm

    With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I regret that I have to make a statement about two serious incidents involving British forces that took place in Iraq today.

    One incident occurred at about 7.30 this morning UK time, 10.30 local time. It involved members of the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment, who were conducting a routine patrol in the town of al Majarr al Kabir, about 25 kilometres south of the town of al Amarah, in the province of al Maysan. The two vehicles in which they were travelling were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and rifle fire from a large number of Iraqi gunmen. British troops returned fire and called for assistance from other UK forces.

    A quick reaction force—including Scimitar vehicles, additional troops and a Chinook CH-47 helicopter—was dispatched to the scene to provide assistance. It also came under fire. A total of eight British personnel sustained injuries, one on the ground and seven in the helicopter. The casualties were taken initially to 202 field hospital, south-west of Basra. Two of them have since been transferred to a United States field hospital in Kuwait to receive specialist treatment for very serious injuries. The other six are being treated in 202 field hospital.

    Separately, the bodies of six British personnel, who appear to have been killed in another incident, were recovered from al Majarr al Kabir at about midday UK time. Those personnel were members of the Royal Military Police and had been engaged in training the local Iraqi police. Initial information suggests that they may have been involved in an incident at the police station in al Majarr al Kabir. I regret that at this stage, I am unable to provide any further details. British commanders are obviously investigating the situation as a matter of urgency.

    We are in the process of informing the next of kin of all those who have been killed or injured. I know that the House will want to join me in sending our condolences to these families. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Our thoughts are with them at this dreadful time.

    We are investigating whether there is any connection between the two incidents. British commanders in theatre are assessing the situation and have been in contact with local leaders. It would not be right to speculate further at this stage. I would certainly caution against reaching any wider conclusions about the overall security situation in southern Iraq, particularly in the United Kingdom's area of responsibility. Coalition forces have worked hard to secure Iraq in the aftermath of decisive combat operations. They will not be deflected from their efforts by the enemies of peace.

    The House will be grateful for the trouble that the Secretary of State has taken to keep us informed. There is very little that anyone can add at this stage to the statement that he has made. This is clearly a tragedy for those involved, and the whole House will join the Secretary of State in expressing our deepest sympathies for those who were bereaved through, or injured in, the attacks. I can assure him that we agree that the next of kin must be the immediate priority. As he also said, it is too early to tell whether this signals a general worsening of the security situation in Iraq or is part of a pattern. In due course, the following questions will be asked. Were the attacks co-ordinated, and if so which organisation was behind them? Are we dealing with remnants of the regime, or were the attacks co-ordinated from outside Iraq?

    We have the best-trained and best-equipped troops to deal with threats such as this. This is a setback for them, but one that they will take in their stride. They will not be deflected from their mission to bring peace and security to the Iraqi people, and nor should we. All that I ask of the Secretary of State is that he give them all that they need to conduct operations as safely as possible, because that is no less than our armed forces so richly deserve.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his observations, and particularly for his thoughts on the families, who will be suffering severely this evening. I know that the whole House will join him in the observations that he has made.

    May I, too, begin by thanking the Secretary of State for coming to the House so quickly? He kept us fully informed during the conflict, and he is right to come here this evening. May I also echo the tributes that have been paid to our armed forces, and pass on condolences from the Liberal Democrat Benches to the families and comrades of those who have lost their lives, and to the regiments? We also wish a full recovery to all those who have been injured. Our thoughts are with them and their families.

    These events show above all that we can never take the work of our armed forces for granted. The job that they are doing in Iraq is difficult and dangerous, and it is far from over. They continue to perform their task with great courage. Our thoughts are with them tonight.

    In these awful and tragic circumstances, is not part of the unpalatable truth that, whether we like it or not, the British forces, like the Americans, are perceived as less of a liberating force and more of an occupying army? In the circumstances, should we not make an urgent approach to the United Nations?

    Clearly, there has been a UN resolution in recent times, and it is important that we identify precisely who was responsible for the attacks before reaching such conclusions.

    May I add my condolences and those of my Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru colleagues? Our thoughts are also with the families of the soldiers killed and injured in Iraq today. I urge the Secretary of State to do all he can to ensure that the families receive all possible support. As the Member for Perth, where Blackwatch has its regimental headquarters, I also urge him to do all he can to ensure that the necessary level of protection is afforded to our soldiers on the ground in Iraq.

    Just two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were in the Basra- Umm Qasr area and we clearly saw that British troops were playing a sterling role in trying to work with, and give every assistance to, the local community. My concern is that this horrific incident should not lead to any reversal of policy. It is the correct policy and it should be continued.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Several hon. Members have told me of their shock, having visited southern Iraq and having seen the security situation on the ground improving steadily, at the appalling incidents that have now taken place. That is why it is so important to understand precisely what has happened.

    May I, on behalf of my hon. Friends, also extend condolences to the families of all those who have been injured and killed in the tragic incidents in Iraq today? We in Northern Ireland are, tragically, all too familiar with this type of incident and we wish the injured well in their recovery. What is the position in respect of contact with local leaders on the ground in southern Iraq and what level of co-operation are British forces on the ground receiving?

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his observations. As far as local leaders are concerned, we have enjoyed an extremely good relationship across southern Iraq. Indeed, the information about the six deaths at the police station came from local people.

    The men of the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment are based in my Dover constituency. They were due to start coming home next week. Can my right hon. Friend say whether these incidents have changed those arrangements, and what practical arrangements are in hand to allow families and friends of people still serving overseas to make direct contact with the Ministry?

    I am not aware of any plans to change the arrangements for the return, though the overall security position obviously has to be kept under review in the light of these dreadful incidents. I can certainly reassure all the families whose loved ones are serving in Iraq that every effort is being made for their welfare.

    Like the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Lyons), I also visited Basra two weeks ago. People should realise that the work that our troops are doing on the ground is excellent. Local people greeted us with great friendliness. To all of us on that visit, this tragic news is particularly bitter. I hope that the Secretary of State will ensure that our forces continue to do the good work that they are doing now.

    May I join others in expressing my deep sympathy to the relatives of the dead? I have mixed feelings tonight. A young relative of mine just returned home from Basra today, so I feel awful about what has happened. I repeat what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell): is it not time to call in the United Nations to help? We daily see American soldiers killed and other incidents for which we all feel horror. Is it not time that the whole world came together to do something about security and really help Iraq? If we are serious about helping the Iraqi people, we should secure the involvement of the United Nations. It is clear that there is hostility towards the coalition.

    I repeat that there is a United Nations resolution, under which forces are already in Iraq with the authority provided by it. Indeed, we continue to discuss with other nations the contributions that they will make to rebuilding Iraq.

    May I extend the condolences of my party to the families of those who have lost loved ones in Iraq, and our good wishes for the recovery of those who have been injured? It is particularly poignant, given that we have just hosted Iraqi members of the special Olympics team in my home town and constituency. We want to pay tribute to the Prime Minister and all Departments that helped facilitate that visit. I hope and trust that God will be with our troops in Iraq as they seek to serve the people of Iraq and restore democracy and permanent peace.

    In the light of today's tragic events, will the Secretary of State reflect further on the contributions of my hon. Friends the Members for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) and for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)? We are talking about a desire for a United Nations force in Iraq that can assist in developing representative and accountable government there. Clearly, as time goes on, the British and American forces will increasingly be seen as an army of occupation rather than an army of liberation. Does the Secretary of State not think that the UN is best equipped to fulfil that role?

    I do not accept that description of the coalition forces, but I will certainly reflect further on what all hon. Members have had to say.

    I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the Secretary of State for making that early report and statement.

    Licensing Bill Lords (Programme) (No 3)

    Motion made and Question put,

    That the following provisions shall apply to the Licensing Bill [ Lords] for the purpose of supplementing the Orders of 24th March 2003 and 16th June 2003.

    Consideration Of Lords Message

    1. Proceedings on consideration of the Lords Message shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.

    2. Those proceedings shall be taken in the following order, namely, the Lords Amendment in lieu of Commons Amendment No. 62, the Lords Reasons for disagreeing to Commons Amendments Nos. 6, 15, 16, 20 and 21 and the Lords Amendment in lieu of words left out of the Bill by Commons Amendment No. 50.

    Subsequent Stages

    3. Any further message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question put.

    4. Proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.— [Mr. Jim Murphy.]

    The House divided: Ayes 274. Noes 158.

    Division No. 253]

    [8:06 pm

    AYES

    Ainger, NickDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
    Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)David, Wayne
    Alexander, DouglasDavidson, Ian
    Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
    Armstrong, rh Ms HilaryDavies, Geraint (Croydon C)
    Atherton, Ms CandyDawson, Hilton
    Bailey, AdrianDean, Mrs Janet
    Baird, VeraDenham, rh John
    Barnes, HarryDhanda, Parmjit
    Battle, JohnDobson, rh Frank
    Beard, NigelDonohoe, Brian H.
    Begg, Miss AnneDoran, Frank
    Benn, HilaryDrew, David (Stroud)
    Bennett, AndrewEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
    Best, HaroldEagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
    Blackman, LizEdwards, Huw
    Blears, Ms HazelEfford, Clive
    Borrow, DavidEllman, Mrs Louise
    Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
    Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Farrelly, Paul
    Bradshaw, BenFisher, Mark
    Brennan, KevinFitzpatrick, Jim
    Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Filzsimons, Mrs Lorna
    Bryant, ChrisFollett, Barbara
    Burgon, ColinFoster, rh Derek
    Burnham, AndyFoster, Michael (Worcester)
    Byers, rh StephenFoster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
    Caborn, rh Richard
    Cairns, DavidFrancis, Dr. Hywel
    Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Gibson, Dr. Ian
    Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Gilroy, Linda
    Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Godsiff, Roger
    Caplin, IvorGoggins, Paul
    Caton, MartinGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
    Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)Grogan, John
    Challen, ColinHain, rh Peter
    Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
    Chaytor, DavidHall, Patrick (Bedford)
    Clapham, MichaelHamilton, David (Midlothian)
    Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
    Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Hanson, David
    Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
    Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
    Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
    Healey, John
    Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
    Clelland, DavidHendrick, Mark
    Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)Hepburn, Stephen
    Coaker, VernonHeppell, John
    Coffey, Ms AnnHesford, Stephen
    Coleman, IainHewitt, rh Ms Patricia
    Colman, TonyHinchliffe, David
    Connarty, MichaelHodge, Margaret
    Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
    Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)Hoon, rh Geoffrey
    Corbyn, JeremyHope, Phil (Corby)
    Corston, JeanHopkins, Kelvin
    Cranston, RossHowarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
    Cruddas, Jon
    Cryer, Ann (Keighley)Howells, Dr. Kim
    Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
    Cummings, John
    Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
    Cunningham, Tony (Workington)Humble, Mrs Joan
    Curtis-Thomas, Mrs ClaireHume, John (Foyle)
    Dalyell, TamHurst, Alan (Braintree)
    Darling, rh AlistairIddon, Dr. Brian

    Illsley, EricOlner, Bill
    Irranca-Davies, HuwOrgan, Diana
    Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
    Owen, Albert
    Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)Palmer, Dr. Nick
    Jamieson, DavidPicking, Anne
    Jenkins, BrianPickthall, Colin
    Johnson, Alan (Hull W)pike, Peter (Burnley)
    Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Plaskitt, James
    Pollard, Kerry
    Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
    Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
    Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
    Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Primarolo, rh Dawn
    Jowell, rh TessaProsser, Gwyn
    Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)Purchase, Ken
    Kaufman, rh GeraldPurnell, James
    Keeble, Ms SallyRammell, Bill
    Keen, Alan (Feltham)Rapson Syd (Portsmouth N)
    Kemp, FraserRaynsford, rh Nick
    Khabra, Piara S.Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
    Kidney, DavidReid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
    Kilfoyle, Peter
    King, Andy (Rugby)Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniwsland)
    King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
    Rooney, Terry
    Ladyman Dr.StephenRuane, Chris
    Lammy, DavidRuddock, Joan
    Lepper, DavidRussell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
    Leslie, Christopher
    Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
    Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)Ryan, Joan Enfield N)
    Lewis, Terry (Worsley)Salter, Martin
    Love, AndrewSawford, Phil
    Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)Shaw, Jonathan
    Luke, Iain (Dundee E)Sheerman, Barry
    Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)Sheridan, Jim
    McAvoy, ThomasSingh, Marsha
    McCabe StephenSmith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
    McCartney, rh IanSoley, Clive
    MacDonald, CalumStarkey, Dr. Phyllis
    McDonnell, JohnSteinberg, Gerry
    MacDougall, JohnStevenson, George
    McIsaac, ShonaStewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
    McKechin, Ann
    Mackinlay, AndrewStoate, Dr. Howard
    McNulty, TonyStringer, Graham
    MacShane, DenisStuart, Ms Gisela
    Mactaggart, FionaSutcliffe, Gerry
    McWalter, TonyTami, Mark (Alyn)
    McWilliam, JohnTaylor, Dari (Stockton S)
    Mahon, Mrs AliceThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
    Mallaber, JudyTipping, Paddy
    Mandelson, rh PeterTodd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
    Mann, John (Bassetlaw)Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
    Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)Truswell, Paul
    Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
    Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Turner, Neil (Wigan)
    Marshall-Andrews, RobertTwigg, Derek (Halton)
    Martlew, EricTynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
    Michael, rh AlunVaz, Keith (Leicester E)
    Milburn, rh AlanWalley, Ms Joan
    Miliband, DavidWareing, Robert N.
    Moffatt, LauraWatson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
    Mole, ChrisWhite, Brian
    Moonie, Dr. LewisWhitehead, Dr. Alan
    Morgan, JulieWicks, Malcolm
    Morley, ElliotWilliams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
    Mudie, GeorgeWilliams, Betty (Conwy)
    Mullin, ChrisWills, Michael
    Munn, Ms MegWinnick, David
    Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
    Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
    Naysmith, Dr. DougWood, Mike (Batley)
    Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)Woolas, Phil
    O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Worthington, Tony

    Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)

    Tellers for the Ayes:

    Wright, David (Telford)

    Ms Bridget Prentice and

    Wyatt, Derek

    Margaret Moran

    NOES

    Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Holmes, Paul
    Allan, RichardHoram, John (Orpington)
    Amess, DavidHowarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
    Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Jack, rh Michael
    Bacon, RichardJenkin, Bernard
    Baron, John (Billericay)Keetch, Paul
    Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)Kirkbride, Miss Julie
    Bellingham, HenryKirkwood, Sir Archy
    Blunt, CrispinKnight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
    Boswell, TimLaing, Mrs Eleanor
    Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Lait, Mrs Jacqui
    Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)Laws, David (Yeovil)
    Letwin, rh Oliver
    Brady, GrahamLewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
    Brake, Tom (Carshalton)Liddell-Grainger, lan
    Brazier, JulianLidington, David
    Brooke, Mrs Annette L.Lilley, rh Peter
    Browning, Mrs AngelaLlwyd, Elfyn
    Burnett, JohnLoughton, Tim
    Burns, SimonLuff, Peter (M-Worcs)
    Burstow, PaulMcIntosh, Miss Anne
    Burt, AlistairMackay, rh Andrew
    Butterfill, JohnMaclean, rh David
    Cable, Dr. VincentMcLoughlin, Patrick
    Calton, Mrs PatsyMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
    Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
    Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)Maude, rh Francis
    Cash, WilliamMay, Mrs Theresa
    Chidgey, DavidMercer, Patrick
    Chope, ChristopherMitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
    Clappison, James
    Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyMoore, Michael
    Collins, TimMoss, Malcolm
    Conway, DerekMurrison, Dr. Andrew
    Cotter, BrianNorman, Archie
    Davey, Edward (Kingston)Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
    Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
    Öpik, Lembit
    Dodds, NigelOsborne, George (Tatton)
    Doughty, SuePage, Richard
    Duncan, Alan (Rutland)Paice, James
    Evans, NigelPaterson, Owen
    Ewing, AnnabellePickles, Eric
    Fabricant, MichaelPrice, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
    Fallon, Michael
    Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
    Randall, John
    Flight, HowardReid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
    Flook, AdrianRendel, David
    Forth, rh EricRobertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
    Foster, Don (Bath)
    Francois, MarkRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
    Garnier, EdwardRobinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
    Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
    Gidley, SandraRoe, Mrs Marion
    Goodman, PaulRosindell, Andrew
    Grayling, ChrisRuffley, David
    Green, Damian (Ashford)Russell, Bob (Colchester)
    Green, Matthew (Ludlow)Sanders, Adrian
    Greenway, JohnSayeed, Jonathan
    Grieve, DominicSelous, Andrew
    Hague, rh WilliamSimmonds, Mark
    Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
    Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
    Harvey, NickSpicer, Sir Michael
    Hayes, John (S Holland)Spring, Richard
    Heath, DavidStanley, rh Sir John
    Heathcoat-Amory, rh DavidStreeter, Gary
    Hendry, CharlesStunell, Andrew
    Hermon, LadySwire, Hugo (E Devon)

    Syms, RobertWiddecombe, rh Miss Ann
    Taylor, Ian (Esher)Wiggin, Bill
    Taylor, John (Solihull)Willetts, David
    Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)Williams Hywel (Caernarfon)
    Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)Williams Roger (Brecon)
    Thurso, JohnWillis, Phi1
    Tonge, Dr. JennyWilshire, David
    Tredinnick, DavidWinterton, Ann(Congleton)
    Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
    Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)Wishart Pete
    Tyrie, AndrewYounger-Ross, Richard
    Waterson, Nigel
    Webb, Steve (Northavon)

    Tellers for the Noes:

    Weir, Michael

    Mr. Mark Hoban and

    Whittingdale, John

    Angela Watkinson

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Licensing Bill Lords

    Lords amendments and reasons, considered.

    8.19 pm

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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?

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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?

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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?

    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.

    9.15 pm

    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

    AYES

    Ainger, NickBattle, John
    Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)Beard, Nigel
    Alexander, DouglasBeckett, rh Margaret
    Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)Begg, Miss Anne
    Armstrong, rh Ms HilaryBenn, Hilary
    Atherton, Ms CandyBennett, Andrew
    Bailey, AdrianBetts, Clive
    Baird, VeraBlackman, Liz
    Barnes, HarryBlears, Ms Hazel

    Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)Francis, Dr. Hywel
    Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
    Bradshaw, BenGibson, Dr. Ian
    Brennan, KevinGilroy, Linda
    Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Goggins, Paul
    Bryant, ChrisGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
    Buck, Ms KarenGrogan, John
    Burgon, ColinHain, rh Peter
    Burnham, AndyHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
    Byers, rh StephenHall, Patrick (Bedford)
    Caborn, rh RichardHamilton, David (Midlothian)
    Cairns, DavidHamilton, 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, MartinHealey, John
    Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
    Challen, ColinHendrick, Mark
    Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Hepburn, Stephen
    Chaytor, DavidHeppell, John
    Clapham, MichaelHesford, 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, DavidHowarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
    Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
    Coaker, VernonHowells, Dr. Kim
    Coffey, Ms AnnHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
    Coleman, IainHumble, Mrs Joan
    Colman, TonyHume, John (Foyle)
    Connarty, MichaelHurst, Alan (Braintree)
    Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Iddon, Dr. Brian
    Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)Illsley, Eric
    Corston, JeanIrranca-Davies, Huw
    Cousins, JimJackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
    Cranston, RossJenkins, Brian
    Cruddas, JonJohnson, Alan (Hull W)
    Cryer, Ann (Keighley)Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
    Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
    Cummings, JohnJones, Helen (Warrington N)
    Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
    Cunningham, Tony (Workington)Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
    Curtis-Thomas, Mrs ClaireJones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
    Dalyell, TamJones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
    Darling, rh AlistairJowell, rh Tessa
    Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
    David, WayneKaufman, rh Gerald
    Davidson, lanKeeble, Ms Sally
    Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)Keen, Alan (Feltham)
    Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)Kemp, Fraser
    Dawson, HiltonKhabra, Piara S.
    Dean, Mrs JanetKidney, David
    Denham, rh JohnKilfoyle, Peter
    Dhanda, ParmjitKing, 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, HuwLeslie, Christopher
    Efford, CliveLevitt, Tom (High Peak)
    Ellman, Mrs LouiseLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
    Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
    Farrelly, PaulLove, Andrew
    Fisher, MarkLucas, Ian (Wrexham)
    Fitzpatrick, JimLuke, Iain (Dundee E)
    Fitzsimons, Mrs LornaLyons, John (Strathkelvin)
    Follett, BarbaraMcAvoy, Thomas
    Foster, rh DerekMcCabe, Stephen
    Foster, Michael (Worcester)McCartney, rh Ian
    Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)MacDonald, Calum
    McDonnell, John

    MacDougall, JohnRooney, Terry
    McIsaac, ShonaRuane, Chris
    McKechin, AnnRuddock, Joan
    Mackinlay, AndrewRussell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
    McNulty, Tony
    MacShane, DenisRyan, Joan (Enfield N)
    McWalter, TonySalter, Martin
    McWilliam, JohnSavidge, Malcolm
    Mallaber, JudySawford, Phil
    Mandelson, rh PeterShaw, Jonathan
    Mann, John (Bassetlaw)Sheerman, Barry
    Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)Sheridan, Jim
    Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Singh, Marsha
    Martlew, EricSmith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
    Michael, rh AlunSoley, Clive
    Milburn, rh AlanStarkey, Dr. Phyllis
    Miliband, DavidSteinberg, Gerry
    Moffatt, LauraStevenson, George
    Mole, ChrisStewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
    Moonie, Dr. Lewis
    Moran, MargaretStoate, Dr. Howard
    Morgan, JulieStringer, Graham
    Morley, ElliotStuart, Ms Gisela
    Morris, rh EstelleTami, Mark (Alyn)
    Mudie, GeorgeTaylor, Dari (Stockton S)
    Mullin, ChrisThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
    Munn, Ms MegTipping, Paddy
    Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
    Naysmith, Dr. DougTouhig, Don (Islwyn)
    Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
    O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Turner, Neil (Wigan)
    Olner, BillTwigg, Derek (Halton)
    Organ, DianaTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
    Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
    Owen, AlbertVaz, Keith (Leicester E)
    Palmer, Dr. NickWareing, Robert N.
    Picking, AnneWatson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
    Pickthall, ColinWhite, Brian
    Pike, Peter (Burnley)Whitehead, Dr. Alan
    Plaskitt, JamesWicks, Malcolm
    Pollard, KerryWilliams, 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 DawnWood, Mike (Batley)
    Prosser, GwynWoolas, Phil
    Purchase, KenWorthington, Tony
    Purnell, JamesWright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
    Rammell, Bill
    Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)Wright, David (Telford)
    Raynsford, rh NickWright, 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

    NOES

    Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Brazier, Julian
    Allan, RichardBreed, Colin
    Amess, DavidBrooke, Mrs Annette L.
    Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Browning, Mrs Angela
    Bacon, RichardBurnett, John
    Baker, NormanBurns, Simon
    Barker, GregoryBurstow, Paul
    Baron, John (Billericay)Burt, Alistair
    Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)Butterfill, John
    Blunt, CrispinCable, Dr. Vincent
    Boswell, TimCalton, Mrs Patsy
    Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
    Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)
    Cash, William
    Brady, GrahamChidgey, David
    Brake, Tom (Carshalton)Chope, Christopher

    Clappison, JamesMoss, Malcolm
    Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyMurrison, Dr. Andrew
    Collins, TimNorman, Archie
    Conway, DerekOaten, Mark (Winchester)
    Cotter, BrianO'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, NigelPickles, Eric
    Doughty, SuePortillo, rh Michael
    Duncan, Alan (Rutland)Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
    Evans, Nigel
    Fabricant, MichaelPrisk, Mark (Hertford)
    Fallon, MichaelRandall, John
    Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
    Rendel, David
    Flight, HowardRobertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
    Flook, Adrian
    Forth, rh EricRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
    Foster, Don (Bath)Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
    Garnier, EdwardRobinson, Peter (Belfast E)
    George, Andrew (St. Ives)Roe, Mrs Marion
    Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)Rosindell, Andrew
    Gidley, SandraRuffley, David
    Goodman, PaulRussell, Bob (Colchester)
    Grayling, ChrisSanders, Adrian
    Green, Damian (Ashford)Sayeed, Jonathan
    Green, Matthew (Ludlow)Selous, Andrew
    Greenway, JohnSimmonds, Mark
    Grieve, DominicSpelman, Mrs Caroline
    Gummer, rh JohnSpicer, Sir Michael
    Hague, rh WilliamSpring, Richard
    Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)Stanley, rh Sir John
    Steen, Anthony
    Harvey, NickStreeter, Gary
    Hayes, John (S Holland)Stunell, Andrew
    Heath, DavidSwire, Hugo (E Devon)
    Hendry, CharlesSyms, Robert
    Holmes, PaulTaylor, Ian (Esher)
    Horam, John (Orpington)Taylor, John (Solihull)
    Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
    Jack, rh MichaelTaylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
    Jenkin, BernardThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
    Keetch, PaulThurso, John
    Kirkbride, Miss JulieTonge, Dr. Jenny
    Kirkwood, Sir ArchyTredinnick, David
    Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
    Laing, Mrs EleanorTyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
    Lait, Mrs JacquiTyrie, Andrew
    Laws, David (Yeovil)Waterson, Nigel
    Leigh, EdwardWatkinson, Angela
    Letwin, rh OliverWebb, Steve (Northavon)
    Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)Whittingdale, John
    Liddell-Grainger, lanWiddecombe, rh Miss Ann
    Lidington, DavidWiggin, Bill
    Lilley, rh PeterWilletts, David
    Llwyd, ElfynWilliams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
    Loughton, TimWilliams, Roger (Brecon)
    Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)Willis, Phil
    McIntosh, Miss AnneWilshire, David
    Mackay, rh AndrewWinterton, Ann (Congleton)
    Maclean, rh DavidWinterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
    McLoughlin, Patrick
    Maude, rh FrancisYounger-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.]

    Petition

    Community Pharmacies

    9.32 pm

    I wish to present a petition signed by more than 3,500 of my constituents and others regarding their concerns about the recommendations of the Office of Fair Trading on community pharmacies. I pay particular tribute to Mr. Tom Liptrot, a community pharmacist in my constituency, who has been assiduous in promoting this petition.

    The petition states:

    The implementation of the Office of Fair Trading recommendation to remove restrictions on entry to the community pharmacy market could create instability in the community pharmacy sector, put a blight on the investment plans of pharmacies, frustrate the plans of primary care trusts, and thereby reduce access to community-based services, none of which would be consistent with the Department of Health's policy document "Pharmacy in the Future—Implementing the NHS Plan".
    The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons call upon the Government to reject this recommendation.
    To lie upon the Table.

    Construction Industry (Tax Treatment)

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.[Joan Ryan.]

    9.33 pm

    I am pleased to have the opportunity to bring this important matter before the House. Although I have no direct experience of the building industry, I come from a family who for generations worked in that industry. My father was a lifelong member of the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers, a predecessor union to UCATT. One of my earliest memories is of attending the union's Christmas party for children at the Oakleigh Cooperative hall, probably in 1950. My next memory was of my father building a council estate in Didcot in 1951. He was a general foreman on a construction site for Laings, and I spent a week down there with him as he patrolled the site giving directions to the people working there, all of whom I understood to be the employees of the contractor.

    That was a long time ago. This Government and previous Governments have wrestled with the problems over the past 40 or 50 years. Reform of the Inland Revenue construction industry scheme was announced in the Chancellor's pre-Budget statement in November 2002, together with the publication of the consultation paper entitled "The Inland Revenue and the Construction Industry—Working together for a New Scheme". That may be said to be a first. If its aims can be achieved, there will be considerable progress.

    The revised scheme, which is to be implemented in 2005, sets three broad aims: to reduce the regulatory burden on the industry; to improve compliance, particularly with regard to tax obligations; and to assist businesses properly to assess the proper status of their workers. Reducing paperwork is linked to the introduction of computerisation. At present, "employers" issue slips or vouchers supposedly every time a payment is made to the "self-employed man or woman", and that is then sent off for tax reconciliation at the end of the year. One of the major problems has been that employees often do not receive the vouchers, or they receive them en bloc, as a result of which they have considerable difficulties in assessing the tax calculation at the end of the period.

    The proposal is that the Inland Revenue computer system will simplify that enormously. Provided that it works—and that is what used to be called a conditional clause—it should make some considerable progress but the Revenue over 30 years has been trying to overcome tax evasion in the construction industry without any real and lasting success. My fear is that, unless we are careful with the revised scheme, there will be further disappointment and public confidence will wane further.

    The consequences of failure are not just a loss to the Inland Revenue, which has been estimated by Dr. Harvey, who was engaged by UCATT to assess the position, to be about £1.2 billion to £2 billion per year, but a loss to every taxpayer in the country. I recently tabled a parliamentary question to my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General, and I believe that there are no clear figures or estimates from the Government as to what the loss is, although I suspect that they will concede that there is a loss. However, false self-employment has further consequences. It goes to the heart of the industry. It fragments the work force and denies workers in the industry employment rights. The man who is said to be self-employed but in reality is not loses all the protections that the employed man would have, and risks losing social security benefits if he fails to pay his national insurance contributions.

    On the face of it, there is a short-term gain for contractors in employing the self-employed. That comes about because they escape liability for employers national insurance contributions. Nor are they obliged to offer many of the rights and protections that they would have to offer to those who are on the payroll. The whole system is essentially false. It is a fantasy world. One can go to building sites, look at the men employed and they will all appear to be doing the same job, working there week after week. They will all appear to be on the same terms but some will be employed and some will be purporting to be self-employed. The working man is in a difficult position because if he complains, he may risk losing his job. It is not unknown for contractors to insist on self-employment rather than to offer any choice.

    There may have been some progress over the past two or three years but even today, a union official in my division, Ron McKay, told me of a building site close by. He believes that 100 per cent. of those working there—it is quite a large site—are purporting to be self-employed.

    I suppose that the problem really started back in the 1960s. Before then, the majority of workers were on the pay-as-you-earn scheme. They were engaged perhaps by a subcontractor, but predominantly by a main contractor, and they were paid weekly. At the end of the week, the employer sent to the Exchequer the tax deducted and the national insurance contributions. The workmen were protected by the labour laws then appertaining and by the benefits flowing from the social security system.

    At some point in the 1960s, something known as "the lump" became almost a public scandal. I recollect television programmes on the effect of the lump—in other words, of payment in cash to virtually uncertified workers. The Revenue had virtually no idea whatsoever what the position was, how many people were employed and what tax should be paid. And of course, the workers themselves had no protection whatsoever against unscrupulous employers.

    The then Government sought to get hold of the situation through the Finance Act 1970. A scheme was introduced involving issuing a 714 certificate in respect of those who were believed to be genuinely self-employed and genuinely independent contractors. They were paid gross by the main contractor, and had to account for tax in the normal way, as any self-employed person does. If they could not do so, they were issued an SC60 contract, tax was deducted at source and the matter was sorted out—or not—at a later date. Of course, the employer still did not pay any employers national insurance contributions.

    It would seem that for many years, Governments did not have a clue as to how many people were employed and how many were self-employed. I recently tabled a parliamentary question on this matter, but figures for the self-employed in the construction industry could be given only from 1994. It seems that there are no figures for before that time, which is perhaps because there was a different system, or because the information was just unknown.

    Governments have recognised the problems, and in that respect I give credit to the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), who in the mid-1990s sought to enforce the existing system. In essence, enforcement turns on proper definitions, so that a judgment can be made as to whether someone is properly self-employed or their status is in fact a charade. When such enforcement and compliance was taking place, a remarkable rise took place in the number of those listed as employed, rather than as self-employed.

    The new construction industry scheme—the CIS4 scheme—involved the issuing of some 800,000 cards in a little more than a year. That is an enormous number of cards to justify the "ticket to ride" to self-employment. The problem appears to have returned to a considerable extent in the past few years. Indeed, in the mid-1990s about half of those in the construction industry were listed as self-employed.

    On the face of it, the new scheme was an attempt to regularise the position, but it appears not to have worked. Other Members have dealt with this issue in recent times. My hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw) has spoken of the effect of bogus self-employment, and my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham), who is in his place, initiated a debate on this subject and on the work of Dr. Harvey in particular. Dr. Harvey's main contention was that mass false self-employment has damaged the construction industry. He argued that it has contributed to skills shortages, whereby major employers no longer invest in training. That and low capital investment are the classic ingredients for low productivity.

    The Government have recognised the problems. As I said, a further scheme will be implemented in 2005. In 1998, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister produced a report entitled "Rethinking Construction", which contained plenty of worthy ideas. Ultimately, however, unless we get to task with the issue of employment and self-employment, all the other matters will fall by the wayside.

    One of those matters is health and safety. The building industry has acquired an appalling record over the years. Indeed, last year, there were 85 fatalities and 4,862 serious injuries. It is right to say that the Health and Safety Executive has taken dynamic action to bring that down by on-the-spot inspections of sites and by seeking a greater degree of compliance. The industry itself has set targets to reduce the fatalities and injuries by a considerable degree over the next five years.

    The new scheme outlined by the Government is based on verification. It switches the burden from the subcontractor to the main contractor. If that is the case, it is a very positive move forward, which means that the buck will stop with the main contractor, who has many incentives to act in a responsible way. He will have a further responsibility to rein in the subcontractors who are not always so responsible.

    Would my hon. Friend argue that the proposed scheme will, down the line, eventually lead to more direct employment instead of the culture of sub-contracting that we see at the moment?

    I am grateful for that intervention, and that would certainly be my hope. Narrowing down the number of players, as it were, who are obliged to verify is bound to make the industry wonder whether it would be better off employing people directly, rather than going through a charade of self-employment through subcontractors or directly self-employing workmen. However, unless that is followed through by inspection, it will fail. If there is no rigorous check and verification of returns, there will be no incentive for people to get it right.

    Successive Governments have lightly jousted with the problems of the construction industry for more than 30 years. During that time, workers have lost employment rights, sick pay, redundancy pay and pensions. Training has fallen away and apprenticeships have disappeared. Safety at work remains a mortal problem and the Exchequer has lost billions of pounds over that period. Now is the time to resolve the dilemma created by false self-employment. We need a test to determine self-employment that is open, clear, logical and obvious. At the risk of offending modernisers among Government Law Officers, I shall use a legal maxim that would resolve the conundrum: res ipsa loquitor—let the facts speak for themselves—or, to use a more current term, "get real".

    9.48 pm

    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Hurst) on securing the debate. He raises some important issues and I very much welcome this opportunity to explain to my hon. Friends and the House how the Government intend to carry forward this important work.

    The construction industry is a vital sector of the British economy and central to the Government's commitment to public services. It is an industry that can offer great opportunities for employment and training, and for businesses to succeed. More than 1.5 million people work within the construction sector at any one time and it is clear that, unless the industry can encourage people to work in construction, there will be insufficient labour to fulfil the contracts.

    Before I explain to the House the challenges that the Government clearly face, I want to outline the principles that we intend to follow. I am pleased to say that I am echoing what my hon. Friend touched on in his speech about the need to adhere to those principles.

    The challenge for the Government is how to ensure that we have a framework in place that gives the industry the flexibility that it needs to respond to the varying commercial pressures that it faces, and the demands placed upon it. We also have a duty to ensure that that flexibility does not come at the cost of employment rights, safety, training or, indeed, the appropriate level of taxation.

    Central to tackling the issues that my hon. Friend outlined in his speech is the issue of employment status, which is decided on the facts. It is for the workers and those for whom they work to agree the terms and conditions under which work will be done. If the agreed terms and conditions amount to employment, rights flow from that. The employer will automatically have certain responsibilities to the employee, including operating pay-as-you-earn to collect the right amount of tax at the right time, and deducting and accounting for national insurance class 1 contributions. They also include the provision of employment rights and benefits.

    If the agreed terms and conditions amount to self-employment, the worker will assume responsibilities for their own tax and national insurance contributions through the self-assessment scheme, and the worker will normally have to provide their own financial cushion to cover holiday or sickness periods. In construction, we have enabled the self-employed to comply with their tax and national insurance responsibilities through the construction industry scheme.

    My hon. Friend touched on Dr. Harvey's report, which was very interesting. Among other issues, my hon. Friend also touched on the amount of tax that Dr. Harvey identified as being at risk. While the Government do not agree with all of the facts that Dr. Harvey considered in order to reach that figure, we do not dispute that some tax and national insurance is lost. That feeds through into employment, training and safety in the workplace.

    Employment status in the UK, as in many other countries, is determined on a case law approach for tax, national insurance and employment rights. The case law approach provides flexibility, but we also recognise that it can mean that it is difficult for some to determine the employment status of their workers. As a Government, we have always recognised that in construction, as with any business sector, there are those who do not pay the right tax and national insurance because they have got their employment status wrong. The consequences of that are important as they affect the individual's employment rights and access to certain benefits, and may also mean a loss of tax to the Exchequer.

    There is a distinction, of course, between those who find it difficult to determine the employment status of their workers and those who make little or no attempt to get the status right. For most engagements, it is clear whether someone is working on an employed or a self-employed basis. But where there is doubt, the Inland Revenue provides extensive guidance and support to help to determine status. That is why the Revenue has a compliance regime to meet the challenge of those who do not meet their responsibilities.

    Despite that extensive support, there are still those who get employment status wrong. It would seem that the incidence of incorrectly determined status is higher in construction than in many other sectors. Therefore, I would also like to take this opportunity to tell the House about the work that the Revenue has done in the last couple of years. I have explained that an individual's employment status is determined using a case law approach. The Revenue has developed a computer-based tool to determine employment status. The tool asks a series of questions about the engagement and, after weighing the facts of the case, will provide guidance on the individual's employment status. The Revenue hopes to start making the software available to its staff later this year and to talk to industry about the possibility of making the tool available externally at some point in the future, perhaps via the internet. That would enable us to ensure that consistent advice is given on employment status, thus providing far greater potential to get it right in the first place. However, my hon. Friend is right to ask whether we are doing enough. Despite the help and guidance that we provide, and despite the threat of financial penalties, it is clear that some employers continue to perpetuate a culture where some workers are paying the wrong tax and the wrong national insurance contributions. That denies them access to the employment rights and benefits that they deserve. My officials meet regularly with representatives from construction and are told that the pressure for false self-employment comes from both contractors and the workers themselves. For instance, we are told that it is the only way that contracts can be won and then fulfilled, that contractors would be happy to tax on the right basis if all of their competitors did, and that the status is too confusing to get right.

    I shall deal with those points. I have already told the House of the extensive guidance that is available, and of the compliance regime for the industry. I have also mentioned the new computerised employment status tool that is being developed, which will support the guidance even further. However, as my hon. Friend noted, it is time that all contractors took the issue of employment status seriously. Following a period of consultation on the review of the construction industry scheme, we announced measures that will bring employment status to the forefront of contractors' minds. I put that in a delicate manner.

    A special tax deduction scheme for the construction industry has existed since 1972 to tackle the culture of a cash economy and tax evasion. The present construction industry scheme, known as CIS, was introduced by the Government in August 1999 to safeguard tax revenue previously lost through abuse of the last scheme.

    However, CIS is a paper-based system that requires all subcontractors in the construction industry to hold a registration card—the CIS4 card—or a gross payment certificate. The scheme requires vouchers to be completed for all payments made by contractors to subcontractors.

    Unfortunately, there is a myth in the industry that a CIS4 card is a certificate of self-employment. Rather as a growing child holds on to the idea of the tooth fairy, many like to believe the CIS4 legend—perhaps they feel that there is greater financial reward in perpetuating that myth. We are openly told on many occasions that contractors treat the CIS4 card as a certificate of self-employment, even though they know full well that it is not. The cards simply allow a worker to work on a self-employed basis, if that is their correct status.

    My hon. Friend touched on the large number of CIS4 cards in circulation. There can be many reasons for that. For instance, we believe that many cards are not used regularly. The cards are issued to individuals, partnerships or companies and they do not have an expiry date. They are not supposed to be proof that a person is definitely self-employed, nor do they convey that status. Some people may have the certificate, but only undertake work at the margins of construction. However, they need the card for that work.

    I turn now to the final point that my hon. Friend made. One of the main aims of the construction industry review is to help construction businesses to get the employment status of their workers right. The consultation paper therefore proposed a new employment status declaration. When the new scheme is introduced, contractors will have to declare that the subcontractors whom they are paying are correctly within the scheme and are not employees. That declaration will be policed—a point made by my hon. Friend—to ensure that it is not being made lightly and that it is being applied.

    To touch on other points that my hon. Friend made, the new system will go further and will enable us—the Inland Revenue, as the tax-collecting authority—to improve risk assessment and trend analysis to find noncompliance on employment status and to deal with it quickly.

    Where does that leave us? What will happen next? I hope that my hon. Friend will be encouraged to learn that we have no plans to change our approach. Determining employment status is the correct way to deal with the issue, although we continue to keep an open mind, as is shown by the initiatives that I have described. We continue to keep the matter under close review across Government to make sure that people are paying the right amount of tax and national insurance contributions and receiving the correct employment rights and training, and that they have access to benefits. All Departments will continue to work together. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Inland Revenue will not hesitate, and nor shall I, to encourage or enforce compliance as necessary.

    I assure my hon. Friends that we take employment status seriously and that we will not hesitate to make further changes, if necessary, in the construction industry or anywhere else. It is vitally important that people fulfil their responsibilities and that an industry that supports many people can make progress with training, safety and proper employment arrangements. Dealing with employment status presents us with an opportunity and I intend to see it through.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Adjourned accordingly at one minute past Ten o'clock.