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Licensing Act 2003 (Coronation Licensing Hours) Order 2023

Volume 829: debated on Wednesday 19 April 2023

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Licensing Act 2003 (Coronation Licensing Hours) Order 2023.

My Lords, I am before the Committee today to propose the extension of licensing hours in recognition of His Majesty the King’s Coronation. I ask your Lordships to support the order to extend licensing hours on Friday 5 May, Saturday 6 May and Sunday 7 May.

Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003 allows the Secretary of State to make an order relaxing opening hours for licensed premises to mark occasions of

“exceptional international, national, or local significance”.

The Government consider the Coronation to be such an occasion. This will be a period in which we celebrate our new monarch. I am sure many people will want to gather with their family and friends to raise a glass to His Majesty the King and wish him a long and successful reign.

The extension will apply to premises licences and club premises certificates in England and Wales, which license the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises. These premises will be allowed to remain open until 1 am without having to notify the licensing authority via a temporary event notice, as would usually be the case. The order covers only sales for consumption on the premises after 11 pm. It does not cover premises which sell alcohol only for consumption off the premises, such as off-licences and supermarkets.

Premises that are licensed to provide regulated entertainment will be able to do so until 1 am on the nights covered by the order, even where those premises are not licensed to sell alcohol. This includes, for example, venues holding music events or dances as well as theatres and cinemas. Premises which provide late-night refreshment —the supply of hot food or hot drinks to the public—between 11 pm and 5 am but do not sell alcohol for consumption on the premises will not be covered by the order; such premises will be able to provide late-night refreshment until 1 am only if their existing licence already permits this.

The Home Office conducted a public consultation, which ran from 19 December 2022 to 23 January 2023. The majority of respondents agreed with the extension on the three proposed dates and that it should apply to England and Wales. The consultation also received responses from numerous trade organisations, which were supportive of the extension of licensing hours. The National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Local Government Association were both in agreement with the proposed extension to licensing hours for His Majesty the King’s Coronation.

I would therefore greatly welcome the Committee’s support for this measure to help celebrate a special and historic moment in our national history. I commend the draft order to the Committee. Mine’s a pint, God save the King and I beg to move.

My Lords, I warmly welcome this order. This is a very appropriate opportunity to raise a glass in the way that my noble friend suggested. We looked very closely at the issuing of licences under the original ad hoc committee on the Licensing Act 2003 and the follow-up inquiry and continue to take a close interest in that.

I am not suggesting that it should be extended, but what is the thinking behind applying the extension to three days only and not to the bank holiday Monday?

If I have understood correctly, the fee has been kept at £21. That is very welcome, as it is mindful of the constraints under which the licensed premises operate. One reason why this is an excellent idea is to recognise what a hard time our hospitality sector has had coming out of Covid.

I think all of us look forward to supporting the industry in this way to the best of our ability—within moderation, obviously.

My Lords, I looked at the 2003 legislation, which permits such variation as proposed here, and noted, as the Minister did, that such relaxation is allowed to mark occasions of “exceptional national significance”. Even the most ardent republican could hardly argue that the Coronation this year will not be an exceptional event or matter of national significance. In fact, no one in this country under the age of 70 has been alive while there has been a Coronation, so it must fulfil that criterion. I will raise a couple of questions about the consultation process and perhaps go a little wider than this immediate measure.

First, in relation to this measure, I query whether it remains sensible for things such as this to be considered as part of the brief of the alcohol policy team at the Home Office. Given concerns about alcohol misuse, would it not be more appropriate for it to be handled by the Department of Health and Social Care rather than the Home Office?

Of course, I recognise that a number of stakeholders are involved in such a consultation, but it seems to me that some sort of qualitative analysis is needed rather than a quantitative one. I noted that around 50 responses were received. We are told that 37 or so were in favour and 11 were against. You could say that this means that 75% support it, so we should too, but I do not think that is a very good way, in public policy terms, of handling a consultation. The consultation is rather smaller in scale than that for the previous subject we discussed, which was on the microchipping cats and dogs. For that, there were 33,000 responses, but for the issue of these licences there were 50. It seems to me that, in considering a consultation on such issues, we should look at where the various stakeholders may be coming from—for example, the hospitality industry, the police and security, and health services. The Government engaged a very good list of consultees, but to answer every point with “Yes” or “No”, “For” or “Against”, with only one open question, does not really deal with the nub of the issues.

It would, perhaps, make more sense to list the responses from the hospitality industry about whether it welcomes this as a boost after a particularly hard two or three years or whether it thinks that it would cause problems for its staff. We perhaps need to hear separately from the police and those involved with neighbourhood policing issues about whether they consider it appropriate. We would also like to hear from the Department of Health and Social Care, trade associations concerned with beer, pubs, wine and spirits, and groups such as the Institute of Alcohol Studies and Alcoholics Anonymous about any consequences that they might see. That might help us form a better approach to assessing whether this is an appropriate measure. However, I certainly think it is, and it has my full support.

My Lords, we too support these sensible measures. The Minister was right in his helpful opening comments to say that the Government are seeking to help people support a hugely significant national event. We warmly welcome the proposals that the Government have brought forward and thank the Minister for them.

On the consultation, I take the general point about health and alcohol, but on this specific occasion the key for me was to look at what the Local Government Association and the National Police Chiefs’ Council said. My understanding, from looking at the Explanatory Memorandum, is that both those organisations were in favour. I take the more general point that the noble Lord made, but on this specific proposal for the weekend of celebration, this is one of those occasions when we can perhaps understand the health risks but allow people to celebrate.

I have a couple of points. First, can the Minister clarify the position of village halls? You can imagine a circumstance where, in a rural village, somebody decides that the village hall would be a good place to have a celebration. I know village halls that just apply to the local authority and off it goes. Are they covered, or will they need an alcohol licence to not be excluded? I am not sure that some of the village halls and community centres often used on special occasions would have the necessary licences, so can the Minister clarify that point?

Secondly, this applies to England and Wales, but can the Minister say something about Scotland and Northern Ireland, particularly with reference to the border? There are other points about that, but I will leave it to the Minister to comment on what has happened with that.

Having said that, we warmly welcome this very good thing to do to celebrate a significant and historic occasion.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords very much for taking part in this brief debate. I am greatly reassured by the broad consensus that His Majesty the King’s Coronation is an occasion of national significance for the purposes of Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003.

I join my noble friend Lady McIntosh in welcoming a measure that ought to provide some relief to an industry which has been very hard-pressed over the last few years, and I hope that the industry is in a position to make the most of it.

On the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, I do not have much input in the design of consultations. However, I have heard his points and I will certainly take them back with a view to come back to the issue in more detail in future consultations—there is not much point in raking over the dust on this one.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, answered the question of why the order falls within the responsibility of the Home Office, as opposed to the Department of Health, rather better than I probably will. This is very much a subject of interest to the police and local government. It is obviously a relatively short extension and therefore the public order considerations are probably rather more paramount under these special circumstances than the health ones—which is not in any way to diminish the longer-term health effects that we all know that alcohol can have.

On the question from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on village halls, I reiterate that the order allows regulated entertainment to continue from 11 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 1 am the following morning only where a premises licence is already in place.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked why Monday is not included. I expect that she will be out until 1 am on the Sunday, so I am amazed—and impressed, if I may say—by her resilience in wanting to get out back on the lash on the Monday. Of course, the following day is a workday, so I look forward to seeing her bright and breezy on the Tuesday morning.

I turn to Northern Ireland and Scotland. In the case of Northern Ireland, this is a devolved issue, and, as I understand it, the Northern Irish Government have chosen not to pursue it. In Scotland, this is matter for local councils to decide. In answer to the question as to whether police forces were consulted, I can say that individual forces were not, but the National Police Chiefs’ Council was, and, as I stated in my opening remarks, it is content with the arrangements as they sit. I really cannot say whether or not the process with local councils in Scotland has concluded, but it is a local matter.

With that, I commend the order to the Committee.

Motion agreed.