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Violent Crime Reduction Bill

Volume 686: debated on Tuesday 31 October 2006

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend, I beg to move that the Commons reason be now considered.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.


[The page and line references are to HL Bill 41 as first printed for the Lords.]

27: Clause 13, page 12, line 43, at end insert—

“( ) A local authority may not make an order designating a locality as an alcohol disorder zone if the whole action plan, or the majority of the actions contained therein, is being put into effect.”

The Commons disagree to this amendment for the following reason—

27A: Because the Commons do not consider that it is necessary or appropriate that the power of a local authority to make an order designating a locality as an alcohol disorder zone should be subject to the restriction proposed in the amendment

My Lords, I beg to move Motion A, that this House do not insist on its Amendment No. 27, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason 27A.

By way of introduction, let me say that this is the Bill’s one small pebble, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, aptly described it at Third Reading. The noble Baroness referred then to the work that had valuably been done behind the scenes with the alcohol industry on guidance to cover the intention behind the amendment. She will be aware that that work was received well on both sides in the other place yesterday. I hope that noble Lords will see that this will also pave the way for handling Motion A with similar ease in your Lordships’ House today.

Moved, That the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 27, to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason 27A.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

My Lords, bearing in mind the recent question asked by my noble friend Lady O’Cathain of the Chairman of Committees, the House might perhaps just need a slight flavour of the matter that we are debating. When I pressed this to a Division on 17 May, I was concerned about the process that the Government have adopted to designate a locality as an alcohol disorder zone. Amendment No. 27 would have ensured that a local authority could not act in a pre-emptive way when it wished to go through all the bureaucratic hoops that could lead almost inexorably to the imposition of an alcohol disorder zone on an area where licensees trade.

Since the House decided in favour of my amendment way back in May, we have had further opportunities to debate the designation process on Report. In addition, the Minister has made it possible for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and the British Retail Consortium to meet those involved in preparing the regulations that will deliver so much of this part of the Bill. I should like to put on record my gratitude to the Minister for all that he has done to facilitate that. This part of the Bill would have had a much rockier passage had it not been for his activity.

I am also grateful to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and the BRC for keeping me informed of progress at all stages. They and their vast membership understand that while an alcohol licence brings opportunities, it also carries significant responsibilities. They have made it clear to me that ensuring that these responsibilities are met is a clear priority for members of both organisations and that, through the trade associations and through their own individual company policies, they seek to demonstrate their responsible retailing approach. They have made it clear that tackling under-age sales in particular, which was of concern to noble Lords, is top of their agenda.

In November 2005, they set up the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group to provide the industry with a forum to share best practice and develop new ideas in the fight to reduce under-age sales. It has been recognised that this group has made excellent progress including, first, retraining on how to sell alcohol legally and appropriately; and, secondly, commissioning research to help members to understand why, despite training and significant resources devoted to stopping under-age sales, such sales continue to happen on occasion. This research has been shared with the Home Office and other stakeholders—a favourite government word—and they are taking positive steps to implement the recommendations.

It is vital that the licensing trade and the Government work closely and constructively on the regulations as they are promulgated and on the guidance that will be brought into effect as a result of this Bill. I was therefore grateful to receive last week fromMr McNulty—the Minister in another place—a letter setting out his policy position that the Government are sympathetic to the intention behind my amendment and that they wish to do all that they can to avoid designations being necessary. It is important that ADZs are treated as the very last resort and that they donot treat responsible and irresponsible licensees alike. Mr McNulty maintained in his letter that the intention behind my amendment could be covered by guidance. He sent to me the extract from guidance that the Government have developed with the WSTA. It was in the light of that, plus the Government's further assurances that followed that they would continue to work with the retail trade on the regulations and guidance, that I indicated to the Government that I would not seek to oppose their Motion today, and I do not.

My Lords, we supported the noble Baroness when she moved her amendment in May. Now that she is no longer pressing it, of course we will follow in her footsteps.

Why do we not get rid of the word “stakeholder” altogether? In our deliberations on this Bill, the noble Lord has expressed his opposition to the term; the noble Baroness has expressed opposition; and I have on numerous occasions expressed opposition. Let us ban it from Civil Service speak from now on.

On Question, Motion agreed to.