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Alcohol Licensing (Coronavirus) (Regulatory Easements) (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Volume 833: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2023

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Alcohol Licensing (Coronavirus) (Regulatory Easements) (Amendment) Regulations 2023.

Relevant document: 53rd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the instrument).

My Lords, these regulations, which were laid before the House on 11 September, contain measures that are intended to continue to cut unnecessary red tape in order to support the hospitality sector in light of the ongoing residual effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As your Lordships may be aware, the Licensing Act 2003 enables licences to be granted to sell alcohol for consumption on site, for consumption off site, or for both. In the event that a business obtains an on-sales only licence and subsequently wishes also to do off-sales, it can apply to its licensing authority for a variation that would add off-sales to its licence.

The Business and Planning Act 2020 included a temporary provision that meant holders of licences that covered only on-sales would automatically be entitled to make off-sales, removing the need for businesses to apply for a variation, thus saving them time and money. In practice, this has enabled pubs and restaurants that have only an on-sales licence to sell alcohol for takeaway, to operate alcohol delivery services and to extend their service outdoors. Specifically, the measures have enabled businesses to serve alcohol in the area covered by any pavement licence they had, facilitated by a parallel but independent easement to pavement licensing. This parallel easement created a temporary streamlined process to apply for and have granted a pavement licence. The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, currently completing its passage through Parliament, will make the changes to pavement licensing permanent.

The off-sales provision has benefited at least 38,000 licensed premises in England and Wales that previously did not have an off-sales licence, and, having previously been extended twice, it was due to expire on 30 September 2023. These new regulations extend this measure until 31 March 2025 to ensure that businesses will continue to benefit from these provisions for a further 18 months. During this time, the Government will explore the creation of a unified pavement licence that includes the consumption and sale of alcohol in the outside pavement area. Work is already under way to establish how this will work in practice. We intend to have permanent arrangements in place that can take effect when the extension expires.

I am confident that extending the off-sales provision is the right course of action in order to provide vital ongoing support to the hospitality sector. Although the immediate Covid-19 crisis has passed, the residual effects continue to have an immense impact, especially for businesses in the hospitality sector. Many continue to face high levels of Covid-related debt, with some reporting in July that their debt repayments exceeded 100% of their turnover.

For the purposes of clarity, I note that another regulatory easement set out in the BPA relating to temporary event notices—TENs—will not be extended. The provision temporarily increased the annual number of TENs that a licensed premises user can have in respect of a premises from 15 to 20 per year and increased the maximum number of days on which temporary events may be held at such premises from 21 to 26 per year. We have decided not to extend this easement for the simple reason that the additional TENs provided for in the BPA have been underutilised and are no longer deemed necessary. As such, on 31 December 2023 that easement will lapse.

These measures will continue to benefit a wide range of businesses, including pubs, restaurants, wedding venues and small festivals. The hospitality industry needs our support, so I commend these regulations to the Committee and beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for introducing these regulations and I declare my interests as set out in the register. I rise briefly to add my support to my noble friend and this measure, and to thank the Government for the support given to the hospitality industry over the last few difficult years.

Personally, I am a supporter of these provisions becoming permanent, and I hope that will come, but in the meantime, I am happy that these regulations will bring 18 additional months of advantage to hard-working, tax-revenue-paying businesses. This extension enables businesses to continue to serve alcohol in the area covered by a pavement licence, for takeaway and for delivery, as my noble friend said, all without the need to apply for a variation to their licence. I am confident that this will continue to benefit thousands of licensed premises across England and Wales. I also applaud the Government’s commitment to explore the creation of a unified pavement licence that includes the consumption and sale of alcohol in the outside pavement area.

In the middle of one of the most joyless events known to mankind—“Sober October”—it is heartening to see some positive news for the hospitality industry. Clearly, the UK’s unelected temperance movement has decided that “Dry January” is no longer enough and wishes to spread even more misery. As far as I am aware, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said that, when the regulations were first introduced and then extended, no increase in crime and disorder resulted. That shows that most people—the vast majority—can enjoy a modest drink without incident.

We know the hospitality sector has taken a huge hit in recent times; although recovering, there is still a way to go for the industry to get back on its pre-pandemic feet. The instrument, as extended today, has helped and will continue to help businesses diversify. Figures reveal that 383 pubs closed in the initial half of this year, to be demolished or converted, the equivalent of two every day. In the whole of 2022, 386 such venues ceased to exist. The overall number of pubs in England and Wales, including vacant ones, now stands at 39,404. The total number of closed clubs is currently not known but the social club sector has seen a number of closures, although not on the same scale.

The reasoning is clear. Let us continue to make things easier and give opportunities to businesses to survive and thrive—positives which we know trickle down to employed staff and to customers who still enjoy socialising. Let us also remind ourselves that, when the Licensing Act was passed in 2003 and introduced in 2005, it was hailed as a means to help create a café society, something which is more easily achieved with the ability to drink al fresco.

My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Commission on Alcohol Harm. I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has introduced these regulations and welcome that temporary event notices will not be continued.

I will focus on the impact of easement, because different health and crime risks are associated with on-sales and off-sales. There is evidence from the Institute of Alcohol Studies that, while on-sales were not happening because of Covid, sadly, the incidence of alcohol-related violence did not drop. There is a link with off-sales. In licence hearings, responsible authorities and interested parties often present evidence of off-sales being a contributory factor in crime and anti-social behaviour.

There are four licensing objectives, which we need to remember: the prevention of crime and disorder; the protection of public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm. There is a concern that making the regulatory easements permanent could undermine local statements of licensing policy. How will responsible authorities and other parties be able to make representations regarding the suitability of the extension and how will any data be collected?

One of the problems with alcohol availability is that it plays a key role in being the biggest risk factor for death, ill health and disability among 15 to 49 year-olds—young people with their lives ahead of them. The density of licensed premises is correlated with alcohol-related deaths, hospital admissions and neighbourhood deprivation. In Scotland, research found that neighbourhoods with the most alcohol outlets had crime rates over four times higher than those with the least. Public health and licensing have to be linked, and there is overwhelming support from directors of public health for them to be included in discussions of licensing. How will they be included, to allow local authorities to make decisions in the overall interest of their community, not only of the landlord of the pub?

How will all this be monitored before the next deadline date? The balance of sales of food and drink in pubs and other places of hospitality and the social interaction that is important for a community to have somewhere to go, meet and interact does not happen with off-sales to anything like the same extent. A lot of lone drinking, which is really harmful in society, is linked to off-sales.

I hope the Government will follow the advice that came from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee:

“The Government intend to use this 18-month extension to formulate and bring forward a long-term policy in the area. When doing so, we”—

that is, the committee—

“expect the Government to provide Parliament with a more robust evidence base, including addressing concerns put forward in the consultation”.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Minister and support him in bringing forward these regulations. I share my noble friend Lord Smith’s ambition that we might eventually have a permanent pavement licence. I declare my interest at the outset as chairman of the original committee on the review of the Licensing Act 2003, of which my noble friends Lord Smith and Lord Hayward were leading lights. I also had the privilege to chair the follow-up inquiry, which was instigated by the Deputy Speaker and the Liaison Committee. I also have the privilege of chairing PASS, the national proof of age standard scheme.

I have a couple of questions for my noble friend the Minister. In its helpful briefing, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee indicates at paragraph 13 that the Government are probably underestimating the benefits to the economy, the hospitality sector and employment of the extension of pavement licensing, which promotes the possibility for businesses to know with certainty that they will be able to have that licence until the end of March 2025, as my noble friend said. Does he accept that the lack of reliable data points to the Government being very conservative and underestimating the potential for higher employment and increased outside socialising?

I hope the regulations will lead to the café culture that lay behind the original philosophy of the 2003 Act. However, conflicts could arise where residential developments are built adjacent to existing premises that have a well-developed business model with outside pavement licensing. Equally, there could be an application for a new business adjacent to a residential area.

In earlier proceedings on the levelling-up Bill, a number of us who served on the licensing review committee brought forward an amendment to introduce the agent of change principle. Might my noble friend open the door to considering developing that principle in his discussions in the department? It would go a long way to resolving some of these difficulties at the earliest possible stage.

With those few remarks, I wish my noble friend every success with these regulations.

My Lords, I too support the regulations. Indeed, I hope they are put on a permanent basis, as my noble friend the Minister suggested. I agree with the suggestion that the review should take due account of the effect on people in the vicinity, and with the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, on the public health issues she outlined.

I have given notice to the Minister of the point I am going to raise, because it is on the broader canvas of the effect of Covid and regulations post-pandemic, as we now see off the dreadful pandemic period. Many of us will recall that during the pandemic itself, we were able to deal with certain things in a very effective way, which gave rise to a warm glow of satisfaction. I am thinking particularly of rough sleeping, which disappeared in a way that many of us found both stunning and encouraging. Sadly, it is now of course creeping back. Have the Government given any thought as to how this can be reversed?

Another feature of the pandemic that we all recall was that, all of a sudden, there was a host of very willing, not to say enthusiastic, volunteers who came forward to help with the vaccination programme. What happened to these people? We do not want to lose that well of good will post-pandemic, and we are in danger of doing so if we do not think of ways to use that very beneficial aspect of the pandemic to good effect.

I will briefly mention one area which I think the Government are neutral on, although at times they seem to be somewhat against it: the change in working patterns. Many people, understandably, are now working more from home. Ministers have sometimes indicated that that is not a good thing. Regardless of whether it is good or bad, the data suggests it is happening, and that will have an effect on communities and their retail aspect, which is another element. In short, I am looking for some reassurance that the Government are considering these issues and that they will consider having a debate, so we can all participate in a discussion of them. I leave to one side the health issues, which I know are being looked at in the Covid-19 inquiry. But there are many other issues as well, which I hope can be addressed.

With that, I am certainly in favour of these regulations, which strike me as very sensible.

My Lords, I express similar support for the regulations and hope that when the final review is completed in March 2025, we move to a more permanent system of operation. I particularly welcome the support the Prime Minister gave to the extension while these issues were being considered.

I begin by pointing out that I was previously Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association and sat on the other side of negotiations with the Government about the changes of the Licensing Act. I had many a discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about not only licensing matters but security matters, which is relevant to the previous debate. I remember sitting discussing such matters with him when the bombing of late-night establishments was attempted.

I want to raise an issue that relates to temporary event notices, and which is not specifically covered by this legislation but arose earlier this summer in the context of the Lionesses’ success in the football World Cup. We should have considered this issue during consideration of the 2003 legislation. I, with others, led the application before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, to change the interpretation of the law in 2002, when the men’s football World Cup was played in Japan and South Korea. He very sensibly said: “My original judgment was X. I now see that the circumstances have changed”, and the nation was allowed extended drinking hours for the period of the 2002 World Cup. Unfortunately, due to an oversight, the only way that temporary event notices can be extended is with the approval of Parliament. Of course, while the Lionesses were playing Parliament was not sitting, so there was no way that any temporary provision could officially be made. Fortunately, I think in most circumstances the police authorities and local councils were sensible in their application of the intended law.

Although it is outwith the purview of these regulations, when the Minister and his officials review the legislation in question, will they give consideration to circumstances which may arise when Parliament is not sitting, so that temporary event notices can easily be granted in some form or another, without the problems that arose this summer? Otherwise, I wholeheartedly support the regulations as they stand.

My Lords, I also declare an interest—this seems to be the “old hands” thing—having been on the Front-Bench team which debated the original Bill in 2003. Since coming back to this issue, the concerns on both sides have not changed: alcohol, when misused, damages public health and leads to disorder and other things. But traditionally, it is our drug of choice—if you like to put it like that—and the one we use to relax in our society; it is the accepted norm. What is the best way of regulating it and making sure that it is used correctly? We also have a hospitability sector linked to it.

When I read the draft regulations, I was surprised to discover that we still have a coronavirus extension for the hospitability sector, although that makes sense when you run through what has gone on. The overall review of how this will be handled and organised in the future is the important thing—it is the elephant in the room, which is at least opaque at this point time; it is not exactly invisible. When I worked on the original legislation, I discovered that sports clubs did not have the same sort of licensing structure as pubs; they had to be dealt with separately and had been overlooked initially. I suppose that I should declare an incredibly minor interest as a non-playing member of my old rugby club.

If we are going to make this process more coherent, these regulations make some sense. But the points about off-sales and private drinking often leading to domestic violence and more health damage are also important. How will that balance be achieved in the review? That is very important. It is better to have outside control, such as when a barman or manager can literally say to somebody, “You have had too much to drink”. Surely it is preferable to have outside control and influence on somebody, rather than their sitting at home and quietly drinking themselves into oblivion and then occasionally interacting with anybody who tries to interfere with that. What is the Government’s thinking on that? Can they say a few words about that process, what is going on and their input into it? Every time we have discussed alcohol sales, those are the two things we have been trying to balance. I hope the Minister will be able to give us some idea.

To be honest, the outcome on this has a degree of cross-party support; it is not the most political of issues, but people will make ridiculous speeches, usually ranting about a problem after it has been dealt with. There is a constant balancing act. It would be helpful to the House as a whole if we could get some guidance on the Government’s thinking—and indeed that of the Labour Benches, because, let us face it, the reality means that this may well be their problem in about a year’s time.

My Lords, I say at the outset that we are not opposed to the SI, but I have a few comments to make.

We cannot gloss over the fact—I will come back to why—that, according to paragraph 10.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum, the majority of people who responded to the public consultation opposed what the Government are seeking to do and said that we should return to the pre-Covid situation. I started by saying that we are not opposed to the Government’s proposals, but we have to address the fact that, while many of us have said that we support the extension of temporary licensing—although this is the third extension—65% of those who responded to the public consultation opposed it. The Government will probably say, as is usually said, that it was a very small sample and not properly reflective of public opinion; none the less, it is important for the Minister to address that.

The reason is that, frankly, the Government’s presentation of this was not as good as it might have been. Since we are in a conciliatory mood, let us say that it could have been better. The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee report is a shocking indictment of the way the Government introduced what is, by and large, an uncontroversial measure. Looking at the public consultation, the Government did not lay out in great detail the problems that were affecting the hospitality industry and why it was therefore necessary for them to continue with the temporary licensing.

I was astonished; I did not realise until I read it, but this was published only as a result of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee saying to the Government, “You haven’t said why you’re going to do this”, and the Government then sending it a letter saying, “By the way, industry survey data shows that the hospitality sector emerged from the pandemic with £10 billion of Covid-related debt”—as the noble Lord, Lord Smith, reminded us. You cannot just ignore that. It goes on to talk about the percentage of people affected, that one in seven hospitality businesses is still operating at a loss, and so on. Why was that not included in the original justification for the instrument?

As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, the impact assessment did not mention the benefits—of employment, social interaction and so on. If you are trying to justify a piece of secondary legislation, why would you not talk about the reasons you are doing it—the adverse impact there would be if you did not do it and its benefits—when all this information is available in the Home Office? Clearly, the Government have to do something about this; it is just not good enough. Their legislation will be impacted, not because it is philosophically wrong but because they cannot get their act together to put out the decent facts to support their case, even though they exist.

I say gently to the Minister that perhaps this needs to be looked at. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that, if we are in government in a year’s time and I have any responsibility, in putting forward a piece of legislation I will do the novel thing of saying why it is a good idea and giving the facts to support that, including the benefits to the community from doing so.

As I joke sometimes with other noble Lords, I am sure that if I do not do it, my comments will be read back to me.

This is important to numerous people’s livelihoods. I will spend a minute or two on that, because it is a serious matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Smith, reminded us, this is about significant numbers of businesses generating significant amounts of money on which significant employment depends. The noble Lord, Lord Hayward, reminded me of the work we did together. It is a really important industry, not to mention the social benefits that it brings.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, was quite right to highlight the concerns. That is why, by March 2025, there needs to be a proper unified licensing regime that identifies and deals with all this and looks at the problems that she mentioned. To start the debate, I do not think the problem is with off-sales from pubs and restaurants. Anti-social behaviour and the problem drinking associated with it usually come from off-sales from small corner shops and so on. In my experience, anti-social behaviour from young people comes from corner-shop sales. That is a sweeping generalisation—the vast majority of corner shops are well run—but the pricing and so on are issues. That is really important.

Another thing that needs tackling—I wonder whether the Minister can say a little more about it—has been highlighted by members of the committee. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said that there is no information about what the responses to the consultation said or who was in support. So 65% were opposed and 35% were in favour—who were they? If the Local Government Association and the National Police Chiefs’ Council were part of that 35%, that is a pretty significant thing to highlight in the report. Can the Minister say a little about who responded and what the views of the police, local authorities and other significant bodies were with respect to this?

I have one other point. These regulations relate to England and Wales. In the various extensions that have happened, have any problems occurred on the England/Scotland border? For those who follow these matters, that is not an insignificant question where licensing laws differ within a small geographical space, as we probably all know. Did any consultation take into account the Scottish local authorities along the England/Scotland border?

We do not oppose these regulations on the extension, but they raise a number of questions about how the Government introduce legislation. The shoddy way this was done undermines their case in doing something that, as the Minister can see from the Committee, has cross-party support. The country deserves better and to understand why things are being done. I hope that, in the run-up to deciding whether this third temporary extension until March 2025 becomes permanent, there will be widespread public consultation which takes into account the various views there will be. Some clarification around things such as pavement licences—what area they refer to and so on—would be welcomed by all those who work in the industry and others. With that, we will not oppose the regulations.

I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I am pleased that this measure, which ensures continued support for the hospitality sector, has been generally recognised as a positive move. I reassure my noble friend Lord Smith that I have no intention of embracing sober October, and I will happily join him in that.

As I have already indicated, the long-term goal is to create a unified pavement licence that includes licensing consent for the consumption and sale of alcohol in an outside pavement area. This 18-month extension will provide the time necessary to establish how this will work in practice to bring about the necessary legislative changes.

I will try to respond to the specific questions, starting with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about the consultation. Earlier this year, the Government consulted on whether to make permanent the alcohol licensing regulatory easements that were set out in the BPA 2020. A majority of respondents indicated that they did not wish the off-sales easement to continue and the Government initially decided not to continue with it. Of those who responded, broadly speaking, industry was in favour and local residents and licensing were not. However, I do not have the precise proportions. The Government later reviewed this decision and decided to provide additional support to the hospitality sector by extending this off-sale provision for a further 18 months. I recognise that this has caused confusion for stakeholders, but it will ensure that the hospitality sector can maximise every opportunity to recover fully from the ongoing residual effects of the pandemic on an industry that, as has been broadly noted, is vital to our economy and culture. I will come back to the evidence of the economic impact shortly.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talked about the broader health evidence that we need to seek. She made some very interesting and sound points about health, but we believe that the existing provisions to consider health matters in relation to licensing applications are sufficient at present. Difficulties remain in establishing direct links, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, alluded, between alcohol-related harms and specific premises. Evidence from Scotland so far is not particularly compelling, but we will consider any new evidence. As a general rule, directors of public health are responsible authorities under the Licensing Act.

I go back to the confusion that may have been caused between the publication of the consultation results and the decision to extend the provisions. We apologise for that confusion—I completely accept that it was not ideal. However, it is right that we considered all the relevant factors in detail, and we are confident that extending this easement for an additional 18 months represents the best outcome for the industry. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked what the point of consulting is if we just ignore the results; I think there is a legitimate expectation that government will consult on matters of policy or legislative change to allow interested parties and citizens the opportunity to contribute their views. They are a vital part of how government engages with the public and stakeholders, and we have to acknowledge the role they play in decision-making. However, they are only one factor among many that must be considered and it is important that the Government retain the ability to make different decisions where other concerns need to be taken into account. The Government have the luxury of seeing the bigger picture, which local residents who object perhaps do not.

My noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lord Smith and the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, made some very good points about the importance of the hospitality sector to the country and the difficulties it is facing. It continues to feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic; there are no remaining restrictions in place, but many businesses continue to face significant debt burdens, as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, pointed out, as a result of the pandemic. Industry survey data shows that the hospitality sector emerged from the pandemic with, as has been noted, £10 billion of Covid-related debt. ONS data shows that 6.6% of hospitality firms reported that their debt repayments exceeded 100% of their turnover in July 2023, which is above the economy-wide average of 1.9% and up from 5.1% in May 2023.

Operating costs reached record levels in 2021 at 55.2%, compared with 52.5% pre pandemic. Industry data suggests that, while turnover was up 6.7% in the last year to £137 billion, when compared to 2019 it remains almost 20% behind in real terms when accounting for inflation. Following the withdrawal of Covid-related government support in autumn 2021, the number of hospitality business insolvencies has steadily risen, as my noble friend Lord Smith noted. According to Insolvency Service data, hospitality insolvencies in the six months to July 2023 were 58% higher than the 2019 average, as cost pressures place significant demand on profit margins. I think that makes a clear economic case for the reasons and rationale behind doing this now.

A number of noble Lords asked about our long-term plans and ultimate goal, which is to create a unified pavement licence that includes licensing consent for the consumption and sale of alcohol in the outside pavement area. The Home Office is working on a permanent solution in conjunction with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is responsible for pavement licensing. While related to these regulations, this is ultimately a separate issue that will be worked through over the coming months. I hope that noble Lords will understand that I cannot discuss that work in any detail at the moment, but I very much noted what my noble friend Lord Hayward said about the experience of the Lionesses and will make sure that that is passed back, in particular what he was saying about how common sense prevailed.

My noble friend also mentioned licensing extensions in relation to that situation. As he noted, extensions of licensing hours support communities who wish to come together to celebrate events, particularly those of national importance, by enabling hospitality venues to open for longer. We are looking at how best to streamline that process for such extensions and will continue to do so.

I understand that any relaxation of licensing law naturally results in concerns about potential crime and disorder, but I can provide your Lordships with considerable reassurance on this point. We have consulted the National Police Chiefs’ Council about the effects that the temporary off-sales permission has had. The view of the police is that the temporary off-sales permission has not caused any clearly identifiable increase in crime and disorder.

On concerns raised about premises whose irresponsible approach to off-sales leads to anti-social behaviour, I refer the Committee to Section 76 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which provides councils and policing with powers to issue a closure notice if there are reasonable grounds that

“use of a particular premises has resulted, or … is likely … to result, in nuisance to members of the public, or that there has been, or … is likely soon to be, disorder near those premises associated with the use of the premises, and that the notice is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder from continuing, recurring or occurring”.

I hope that answers the point from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, about crime and the powers that are already available to have an effect on the grant of these types of licence.

Concerns were also voiced about the off-sales permission leading to excessive noise late at night. The temporary off-sales permission is limited to the hours of on-sales permitted by the licence, with the cut-off at 11 pm. That applies to all premises that receive the permission. Furthermore, should issues of noise and nuisance arise from off-sales of alcohol, environmental health officials can seek an expedited off-sales review. Within 48 hours of an application for such a review being made, the licensing authority must consider whether interim steps are necessary to prevent further problems. Those interim steps may modify the licence conditions, suspend the off-sales permission or exclude the off-sales permission altogether. A review hearing within 28 days has the same option. So there are plenty of safeguards that are sufficient to ensure that problems of noise and nuisance are quickly tackled.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked me about broader work to tackle alcohol-related harms. Preventing alcohol-related harms requires a sustained commitment from across government, but also from local authorities, the police, health partners—to which I have already referred—and, of course, businesses. There really is no easy answer to tackling alcohol-related harms. Every part of the system, from early intervention to brief advice, treatment and access to criminal justice powers, has to work together. We have an ambitious programme of work in train across departments to tackle these harms and I am sure that we will respond to them in due course.

My noble friend Lord Bourne raised some very good points in his question about the lessons learned more broadly from Covid. I am not in a position to guarantee him the debate that he seeks, although I think it is a very good idea, but I point to the way things are changing at pace. I happened to read an interesting article in the Times this morning, which talked about working from home and how, apparently, a majority are now working back in their offices— I believe that that was from Hays, the employment agency. That should be good news for the sort of hospitality services that we are talking about, but I accept and respect the point he made about the fact that society changed in many ways that we ought to spend more time considering, particularly regarding the overall volunteering principle and the civic responsibilities that so many people embraced. Those were good points and we should return to them.

I have spoken enough and answered as many questions as I can. I cannot make any commitment on the agent of change principle, which my noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about, but it is a broad-ranging consultation and work is being done across government on it. I have no doubt at all that it will be considered.

As I said, the hospitality industry is at the heart of many of our communities. It is vital to our economy, as evidenced by the numbers I read, provides employment and boosts tourism. We have to do all we can to ensure it recovers from the effects of the pandemic. The modest extension will allow businesses to continue to benefit from these measures while steps are taken to put in place a long-term solution. I hope that will meet the needs of all interested parties. Therefore, I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.