Standing Committee D
Tuesday 29 April 2003
[Mr. Joe Benton in the Chair]
Clause 60 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire): Welcome back to the Chair, Mr. Benton.
Under clause 61, there still seems to be the outstanding issue of the Caravan Club of Great Britain. The club has approached the Minister on more than one occasion; I am informed that the last time was on 18 March and at that meeting some assurances were given that have not been followed up either in writing or by the Minister himself. Perhaps he can use the clause as an opportunity to give a definitive ruling as to whether the club would be a qualifying club under the requirements of clause 61.
The club's normal activities are associated with national, regional and local meetings and rallies, and it is not engaged in regulated entertainment. There is no dispute about whether the club's activity comes under schedule 1(2). The entertainment, if anything, is exclusive to the rally participants, who are club members and not members of the public, and the club was given the assurance that it was not a qualifying club under clause 61. As we also know, its provision of entertainment is not
''for consideration and with a view to profit''.
The club needs assurances that it will not be caught in the net by doubt over whether it is a qualifying club. If it is a qualifying club, it would have to seek licences and address the problems that many outdoor activities have in working out how a licence applies—for example, does the licence apply to a field, or a locality? It would have to tackle all those questions that relate to the temporary provision of licences, which is covered later in the clause. It would be helpful if the Minister clarified the situation for the Caravan Club, which has been waiting for a response for about six weeks.
The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Benton.
I am surprised that the Caravan Club has chosen not to approach me directly about the matter that the hon. Gentleman raises. I had a productive meeting with representatives of the club, which included one very keen member, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley). On the basis of the information that the club has so far given to us, it does not appear that it is a qualifying club under the Bill,
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but we shall keep the matter under review, and I shall try, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, to get in contact with the club again.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 61 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The general conditions
Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 302, in
clause 62, page 36, line 10, leave out 'two' and insert 'four'.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment No. 235, in
clause 62, page 36, line 10, leave out 'two days' and insert '48 hours'.
Amendment No. 316, in
clause 62, page 36, line 10, leave out 'two days' and insert 'one day'.
Amendment No. 203, in
Amendment No. 317, in
clause 62, page 36, line 14, leave out 'two days' and insert 'one day'.
Mr. Moss: There is a little confusion owing to of the number of amendments that were tabled over Easter. We have tabled a range of amendments that refer to different hours, days and weeks and I will try to make some sense of them.
Essentially, these are probing amendments. We want to elicit the Government's reasons behind some of the periods of time that appear in clause 62. It is my understanding that the interval of two days is lifted from the Licensing Act 1964: presumably, that has worked reasonably well. One of our amendments changes that interval to 48 hours because in some circumstances two days might not give the appropriate authority sufficient time—for example, if the application came towards the end of a day. The amendment changes two days to 48 working hours, which should enable the necessary work to be completed properly.
Amendment No. 203 inserts the following phrase after ''club'' in line 12:
''unless the right to become members without prior nomination or application is thereby completely excluded.''
That is a form of words that seeks to make some sense of this subsection, which refers to ''Condition 2''. I think that that is lifted from the 1964 Act. It gives rise to a strange interpretation in club rules around the country. The original legislation is unclear, and we do not think that the new wording in subsection (3) makes it clearer for those who run these clubs and have to set down their rules and regulations. Amendment No. 203 seeks to clarify and simplify the meaning and wording of the provision, while maintaining the prevention of instant membership to a club to partake of a drink, which is the reason for the two-day delay. This amendment would prevent the need for fairly incomprehensible sentiments being incorporated into a club's constitution. It would lead to a slightly
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elongated subsection, but at least it would provide greater clarification of what is intended.
Amendment No. 302 probes why two days cannot be extended to four days, if the reason is to prohibit anyone from quickly joining a club to enjoy the benefits of its alcohol licence.
Dr. Howells: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has chosen to clarify that because I was confused by it. Could he tease out a bit more why four days and two days appear in the same set of amendments?
Mr. Moss: I prefaced my remarks by saying that there had been a certain amount of confusion over the Easter recess and we have a strong combination of alternative amendments. As they are probing amendments, that is not worth getting too upset about. Their main purpose is to get the Minister to justify why he has set down the two-day period.
Dr. Howells: We have moved on to the part of the Bill that deals with clubs. The Government recognise that there is much to be valued in this country's club movement. Different considerations arise in relation to clubs, which are private premises to which public access is restricted. That is why they are treated separately from pubs, bars and other licensed premises; that is why the supply of alcohol for consumption by members and guests on premises for which a club premises certificate is in force are subject to a different regime with lighter controls.
The clause sets out five conditions that a club must satisfy to be a qualifying club and be eligible for a club premises certificate. It is important that the conditions are strong enough to enable a clear distinction to be drawn between bona fide members clubs and commercial undertakings. The hon. Gentleman is hedging around that simple question.
The first condition in subsection (2) is that
''under the rules of the club persons may not . . . be admitted to membership, or . . . as candidates for membership, to any of the privileges of membership, without an interval of at least two days between their nomination and or application . . . and their admission.''
As the hon. Gentleman told us, that has been the case since 1964 and it has been that way for as long as I can remember.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): On gaming, there has classically been a 24-hour rule, although I appreciate that that is all subject to review and that we are dealing with a different regime. Will the Government try to introduce some consistency? The 48-hour time limit is arbitrary, whether or not it is sensible, whereas the 24-hour rule has been the norm for joining large-scale gaming and gambling clubs. What is the rationale behind maintaining the 48-hour limit, rather than increasing it to 96 hours, as suggested in one amendment, or reducing it to 24 hours, which is common in casinos in central London?
Dr. Howells: The hon. Gentleman is right to remind the Committee that we are reviewing gaming and gambling law with a view to introducing some radical changes soon. Under the proposed gambling reforms,
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bingo clubs and casinos that hold operator's licences and specialised forms of premises licences would no longer be subject to a 24 or 48-hour rule. However, non-profit-making members clubs, such as those that would hold club premises certificates under what will become the Licensing Act, would enjoy certain exemptions relating to lower levels of gambling and prizes, as long as the 48-hour rule on membership, among other things, is applied. There is nothing inconsistent about the two policies: both offer forms of privilege and exemption, subject to certain qualifying conditions and both have the 48-hour rule in common. Nevertheless, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has drawn our attention to the fact that there are some big changes in the offing for gaming and gambling.
Under clause 62(5) the fourth general condition that must be satisfied in order for a club to meet the criteria for qualifying club activities is that it must have at least 25 members. Amendment No. 235—
The Chairman: Order. Perhaps I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that we are dealing with the next group of amendments.
Dr. Howells: I have here amendments Nos. 302, 235, 316, 203 and 317.
The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to No. 204, which is the next amendment.
Dr. Howells: I am sorry, Mr. Benton, I need some guidance. I thought we were considering clause 62, amendments Nos. 302, 235, 316, 203 and 317.
The Chairman: Order. That is correct. I do not know whether I added to the confusion by mentioning amendment No. 204 at the outset, which I should not have done. That will be the next sequence of business.