Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, the licensing hours order before you today was laid in Parliament on 9 February. The order proposes the relaxation of licensing hours to celebrate the wedding of His Royal Highness Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton. If made, it will allow licensed premises to stay open from 11 pm on Friday 29 April, the day of the wedding, to 1 am on Saturday 30 April, and from 11 pm on Saturday 30 April to 1 am on Sunday 1 May to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises; to put on regulated entertainment; and to sell hot food and drink in venues where alcohol is also sold for consumption on the premises.
Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003 gives the Secretary of State the power to make an order relaxing opening hours for licensed premises to mark occasions of,
“exceptional international, national or local significance”.
A licensing hours order overrides existing opening hours in licensed premises and can be used for a period of up to four days. An order may be applied to all licensed premises in England and Wales, or restricted to one or more specific areas. Scotland and Northern Ireland are subject to different legislation. The wedding of His Royal Highness Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton is a day of national celebration and, as such, the Government believe that a small relaxation of licensing hours in England and Wales is appropriate.
It is likely that many premises will wish to open later over the royal wedding weekend to take advantage of the celebrations and the long weekend. The Government do not have detailed statistics on closing times in pubs and other licensed premises—apart from 24-hour licences—but understand that around 67 per cent are currently shut by midnight on a Saturday. Licensed premises may currently use a temporary event notice to extend their opening hours for a limited period at a cost of £21. However, TENs are subject to certain annual limits—for example, only 12 may be given for a single premises each calendar year—and they may be refused by the licensing authority if the police object on crime and disorder grounds. A small relaxation of licensing hours will benefit premises that would otherwise have used a TEN to open late and will allow people to celebrate the royal wedding in pubs, clubs and other licensed venues, such as community halls.
In January this year the Government consulted on a proposal to relax licensing hours until 1am on Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises and for regulated entertainment, which includes live and recorded music and dancing. The off trade was excluded from the proposal on the basis that anyone wishing to celebrate at home could buy alcohol in advance or at any time during normal opening hours. It was estimated that this small extension of licensing hours would save businesses in England and Wales between £240,000 and £280,000.
The consultation period was limited to two weeks but this was necessary to ensure that the order was made in good time for the wedding and businesses had sufficient time to plan. There were 712 responses to the consultation from a variety of interest groups and trade associations. A summary of the consultation can be found on the Home Office website. Although there was some support for an order, many of those who responded were concerned about a possible increase in crime and disorder and therefore in policing costs.
The Government take very seriously the concerns expressed by respondents to the consultation, but it was clear from the press response to the consultation that many people in this country want to celebrate the royal wedding and will welcome these proposals. The order will have no permanent effect on licensing hours and will mean that venues will open for just one or two hours later on the specified days. We anticipate that any additional policing costs will be very limited because the majority of licensed premises that will take advantage of the order would have opened late anyway using a TEN. We would expect any small extra costs to be met from existing police budgets.
Some respondents to the consultation suggested that the order should also include late-night refreshment —the sale of hot food and drink after 11pm—so that restaurants, pubs and other venues could continue to serve food until 1am. The Government accepted that suggestion but did not believe that the order should apply to takeaway establishments, which in most cases already have authorisation to stay open late.
I hope that noble Lords will agree with the Government that that this minor extension of licensing hours to celebrate the wedding of His Royal Highness Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton is an appropriate use of the powers conferred on the Home Secretary by Section 172 of the Licensing Act.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for this draft order. It has my full support. It has been an interesting exercise to go through the consultation; the majority of people who responded to it are against the measure, which shows us that it is not always the case that those who respond to consultations reflect the majority view. I am sure that when she made her decision the Secretary of State took account of the majority view in the population as a whole that it is right to extend the licensing hours as is proposed.
However, I ask for one piece of clarification. In the consultation, a specific request was made that we should be absolutely clear what “regulated entertainment” meant and that a lot of publicity should be given to the fact that live music and dancing would be part and parcel of this order, to avoid any confusion. In the draft order as published, it is not clear to someone who is not familiar with the law whether live music and dancing are part of that or not. I think that it is clear that they are, but I hope that the Minister will explain that that is the case and the general public will have the right, in the extended licensing hours, to have live music and dancing.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness for her helpful explanation. We welcome and support this order. I accept that the royal wedding is an exceptional occasion and merits a small relaxation of licensing hours. Like the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, I note that the majority of respondents to the consultation seem to be opposed to it. I agree with him that people who consult do not always reflect the views of the general public or of Parliament. I am glad the Government have decided to press ahead with these proposals.
A couple of points were raised when this was debated in the other place. Perhaps the Minister could reflect on those. First, I understand that the order only applies to 29 and 30 April. Was consideration given to extending the order over the bank holiday weekend for a three-day period? Secondly, has any thought been given to the provision in the Licensing Act 2003 that allows certain areas to apply different hours on different days during the period covered? In other words, could local authorities be given further discretion at a local level? Finally, in the Explanatory Memorandum it is estimated that the additional policing of the order will cost between £45,000 and £170,000. Presumably there will be additional costs to local authorities. Has her department considered those costs? These are points of detail on which I would welcome a response, but overall we welcome this order.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for this short debate. I am pleased that it has been received with such enthusiasm as we will all merrily enjoy this wonderful event. In response to my noble friend, if premises normally have dancing or serve food, this order will apply to those activities and those premises will have no difficulty in extending them.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked about a three-day period. We were mindful that we could have extended it but there were concerns during the consultation that there may be raised levels of crime and disorder. The key days are 29 April and 30 April. Two days was considered an appropriate period of time for a celebration. In response to his question about additional costs, had we not extended the licensing period, those premises would have extended it so the costs would have been there anyway. I am sure that licensed premises wishing to use this order will have taken that into account and will be responsible. This is one of those events where the country will rise to the occasion and join in the celebration and I am sure that most will be mindful that we do not end up with disorder and increased levels of crime. We have saved licensees the cost of this extension so there is an overall saving for those wishing to use it. All noble Lords have joined in with great enthusiasm and I am hoping that the country will do the same. On that note, I commend this order to the House.