Licensing Hours Extensions Bill: Second Reading

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The Licensing Hours Extensions Bill (Emma Lewell-Buck (Lab, South Shields)) was read at Second Reading in the Commons on Friday, 19th January 2024.

The full, brief is shown below.

HoC Debate: Licensing Hours Extensions Bill

Second reading

Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

For those in the Chamber who do not know what my constituents know already, I love the pub—especially the pubs we have in South Shields. My locals—the Marine, the Harbour Lights, the Criterion, the Steamboat, the Alum Ale House, the New Sundial, the Riverside, the Grotto and the Stags Head—are all not just places where people go to drink; they are where we come to meet our neighbours, friends, family and work colleagues, to celebrate important events or just to sit and relax with a nice cold one.

Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Lab): It sounds like my hon. Friend is incredibly busy, with so many locals to get around. We are going through Dry January, which is a fantastic opportunity for people to reflect on their relationship with alcohol, but that does not necessarily mean they do not go to the pub, because obviously there are a range of low and no-alcohol beverages out there. Will she join me in paying tribute to all those who put the work into those products, but also join me in saying that people can still go to the pub and socialise while being responsible?

Mrs Lewell-Buck: I could not agree more. My own mam is a teetotaller, yet she often comes to the pub to spend time with family and friends, because it is part of the community.

As my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Ms Brown), who has had to leave the Chamber, reminded me earlier, my love of our local pubs is strong, but it is strong across all our constituencies. If there is one thing that unites us across this country, it is sporting or royal events, and the place we tend to gather is our local pub, because they are the beating hearts of our communities. As the House will know, such events do not always take place at the same time as our pubs and hospitality venues are open. That is why the Labour Government’s Licensing Act 2003 made provision for licence extension.

At present, an application for extension would be done by individual licensed premises applying for a temporary event notice. These terms need to be applied for by individual premises to their local authorities. Each application costs them £21 and it can take up to five working days as a minimum to be approved. A premises is allowed to apply for only between two and 10 short-notice TENs in any given year.

My Bill will in no way alter TENs, but it intends to alter the other option for licensing extensions, which is for the Government to make an order under section 172 of the 2003 Act applicable to all premises in England and Wales, specifying the dates and times of the relaxations and not exceeding four days. Such orders are subject to the affirmative procedure, meaning they need approval in both Houses of Parliament.

Best practice is for the Home Secretary to complete a public consultation and for Parliament to debate the order in both Houses. That full process can take up to six months to implement. In practice, these orders have never been opposed and have been used only for important events, such as the coronation of His Majesty the King, Her late Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday and platinum jubilee, the 2011 and 2018 royal weddings, the 2014 FIFA world cup and the Euro 2020 final, which happened eventually in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Last summer, we were all so proud—and we remain proud—of our Lionesses reaching the women’s world cup final. At last, we hoped, it was coming home, and it would be the women bringing it. As Members will recall, we only knew we had made the final on the Wednesday before the match, which was on a Sunday in Sydney, with an 11-hour time difference. The match kicked off at 11 am, with many pubs just opening their doors, meaning that spectators missed out on all that pre-match excitement and venues lost out on the extra revenue. There was no time for our pubs to apply to their local authorities for an extension, and, because Parliament was in recess, there was no mechanism for the Government to issue a blanket extension.

The British Beer and Pub Association predicts that, over the course of one game, pub goers can buy up to 6.8 million pints. Had the licensing laws not been relaxed, pubs would have sold an estimated 1.7 million fewer pints, costing them more than £6 million in lost revenue. Under my Bill, that would change, as would the overly bureaucratic, costly and time-consuming process for blanket registrations. My Bill would amend section 197 of the 2003 Act so that future orders for the relaxation of licensing hours would instead be subject to the negative resolution procedure. That would give the Home Secretary and Ministers the power to legislate without the long parliamentary approval process.

That is not to say that consultation or forward planning will be dispensed with. The Government would need to continue to plan for such exceptional events far in advance, and relevant bodies such as the police, venues, licensing authorities, members of the public, those who live near those licensed premises and trade associations would still be consulted.

Jane Stevenson (Wolverhampton North East) (Con): I put on record my thanks to the hon. Lady for her extremely common-sense Bill. I know pubs like those that she celebrated in the Black Country—in Wolverhampton, in Willenhall, and all around our fabulous region. Our pubs are the lifeblood of the community. I want to pass on the gratitude of my fantastic pubs and my constituents. It is so important that we can come together for these big national events, so I know that she will have broad support across the Chamber for this very common-sense Bill.

Mrs Lewell-Buck: I do not think that I have been to any of the pubs in the hon. Member’s patch, so if that is an invitation, I will join her at some point.

There is currently a consultation open on extending the licensing hours for the UEFA Euro 2024 semi-final and final if England, Wales or Scotland are playing.

Christian Wakeford: I am more than happy to extend an invite to my hon. Friend to come to any of the pubs in Radcliffe, Whitefield and Prestwich as well, although I get the feeling she will become incredibly busy at this rate—and perhaps not that healthy either. Obviously, we have a World cup in the USA in 2026, and we hope we will bring it home then. There are so many events regularly taking place in the US—tennis, or even WrestleMania or the Super Bowl—that people will want to view. Will the Bill extend as far as them?

Mrs Lewell-Buck: I thank my hon. Friend for that invite. Of course, if the Bill passes it would apply to those events as well. Members would also have the right to object. However, that has not happened in the past and it is unlikely to happen in the future. It is not often that I would be happy to propose more powers for a Conservative Secretary of State, but the powers would not only ensure that we can come together in our local for special events; they would also give a much-needed boost to our hospitality industry.

James Daly (Bury North) (Con): The point the hon. Member has just made is extremely significant. Section 172 of the 2003 Act refers to exceptional international, national or local significance. I truly hope that there is a South Shields day, and I am sure that great events happen throughout the year in South Shields. Would this process be an easier way for local areas to celebrate things that would be specific to the locality, whether they are in Bury, South Shields or wherever else? Or are we still talking about big events such as the World cup?

Mrs Lewell-Buck: It would apply to local events as well; each one would be at the discretion of the Home Secretary, in consultation with all the relevant authorities. I hope we do use this in South Shields, because we love a good party there and we love coming together to celebrate.

Our hospitality industry struggled during the pandemic. It is estimated that in 2020 it lost a total of £200 million every day. The industry has more than 220,000 premises licensed to sell alcohol in England and Wales. It employs about 500,000 people in pubs and bars across our towns and communities. Across the UK more generally, the industry contributes £14.3 billion in wages, £26.2 billion to the national economy, £15 billion in tax revenues and £2 billion in net capital expenditure. In addition, it has a strong domestic supply chain, with more than 80% of the beer sold in the UK being produced here in the UK. Clearly, what benefits our pubs benefits all of us. We should never underestimate their contribution or how hard those in the industry work.

I know that probably more than most others in this place. I get the love of the pub from my mam and dad. My dad always knows a good pint when he sees one, and my mam was a well-respected and brilliant barmaid. It should come as no surprise that I followed in her footsteps, ending up working in many pubs and hospitality venues. In my younger and more glamorous days, I was even a promotions girl for our very famous Tuxedo Royale nightclub in Newcastle, with its legendary revolving dancefloor. When I was a local councillor, I chaired our licensing committee and gained my level 2 BIIAB personal licence. In honour of Her late Majesty the Queen’s platinum jubilee, I created, mixed and served cocktails in my constituency at my friend’s popular café and bar, Sea Change. So it is clear that I am familiar with, and happy at, both sides of the bar.

I am in no doubt about the value that this industry brings, not just to my constituency, but to our economy and our country overall. This is a simple, impactful Bill. The pub is a great British institution and it is right that pubs are able to welcome us through their doors for events of national and local significance. Under my Bill, they will now be able to do so, and I remain hopeful that the Minister agrees wholeheartedly with me.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak about this Bill, and I congratulate the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) on introducing it. The wisdom of doing so will make her the toast of many a pub around the country.

The Bill is so helpful because it recognises the flexibility of changing from using the affirmative statutory instrument procedure, with all the requirements that go with that, to using the negative procedure. That allows the Government of the day the flexibility to respond to public demand, particularly when thinking of special occasions. Rightly, the original 2003 Act does not specify what constitutes a “special occasion”, so there can be aspects of flexibility. Indeed, it provides that these orders should not be treated as hybrid instruments. That is why I was interested in clause 1(c), which proposes to omit section 197(5) of the 2003 Act. This basically rules out any possible objections to the statutory instrument in respect of it being deemed to be hybrid; by legislation, it would absolutely not be considered to be hybrid. I just want to make sure that the Minister is happy that this will not trip up any future negative SIs.

The hon. Lady has talked about some of the extensive celebrations, and we know that consultation is required only where appropriate. That is also the right balance to have when we are talking about much more local situations, especially if an event is on at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, instead of just extending a little bit longer. That would be appropriate. I hope she is proud of the deregulatory approach of the Bill, which I would welcome for the future, especially when we are considering all sorts of legislation in that regard. The intention is to reduce bureaucracy. That is why about 80% of secondary legislation is done through the negative resolution. We need to continue that. There is often a clamour in his House, and particularly in the other place, to try to get everything on the affirmative. It is appropriate, of course, which is why the route exists, but it is also appropriate to consider the practicalities of how legislation is enforced.

I look forward to the Bill becoming law. I am sure that many of the pubs and other outlets that require licensing hour adjustments in my constituency will welcome it too. Let us make sure we get to the next World cup finals, so that we can take full advantage of it.

James Daly (Bury North) (Con): I do not think I have ever agreed with a Bill in my life as much as I agree with this one. There is literally no word in it that I disagree with. I actually think the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) downplays its significance, which has been amplified by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey).

We talked earlier about how politics affects and impacts people’s lives. I believe that politics starts the moment we walk out of our front door. The things that impact us most are the things we see all around us. One of the things that makes politics work is community, and for community to work there have to be events and other things that bring people together to share a communal experience. Whether it is the Ramsbottom World Black Pudding Throwing Championships in my constituency, all the wonderful things that happen in South Shields, or the many, many festivals in Norfolk, Suffolk and Hertfordshire, we need a more streamlined process that allows hospitality businesses to benefit from events that bring people to one place to celebrate whatever it is they are celebrating.

Councils have a part to play. We should be much more flexible in how we use licensing, in consultation with the police and while taking account of all the other things that matter, to support the hospitality industry. One of the problems for the hospitality industry at the moment is, basically, bums on seats—getting people through the door. The industry faces challenges from supermarkets in terms of cheaper alcohol, energy costs and so on. I am sure the Minister will have time to roll through all the various measures the Government have taken to support hospitality, but Parliament should be an enabler to allow businesses, through their endeavour and hard work, to thrive and succeed. That is exactly what the Bill does.

In my view, the Bill should not just be seen as being about big national events. It should be seen by MPs, councils, individuals, community groups and the hospitality sector as a way to allow licensing on a large scale to benefit local, national and regional economies and to keep our pub sector going. The pub sector is going through an unmitigated challenge, especially those pubs that are leasehold, and they need all the help they can get. The Bill plays a small part in providing help, so the hon. Member for South Shields should be congratulated on that.

Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and I thank the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) for bringing the Bill before us today. It is great to hear about her cocktail making, too.

There are not many things that the British public find more enjoyable than going to the pub and having a pint. Our pubs are a vital part of the local economy and community. They bring so many people together. That is especially the case when it comes to celebrating big special occasions in our nation, most notably His Majesty’s coronation last May and the late Queen’s platinum jubilee, as well as the Euro 2020 final. On all such occasions, the Secretary of State uses powers under the Licensing Act 2003 to make an order for the relaxation of licensing hours so that pubs can stay open longer. However, it makes no sense at all that, for that to be possible under the current unamended Act, the order has to be approved by this House and the other place, and that the Home Secretary must also consult those they deem appropriate. The most recent consultation had a very low response rate, which does not match the high proportion of the British public who back changes to licensing hours.

There are sometimes concerns that an extension to licensing hours can lead to a rise in disorder, but there is little or no evidence to support that. It seems only right that we should have the ability to celebrate these important occasions in our pubs for longer than would normally be permitted, and it is the perfect way to express our pride in our country and celebrate all the special occasions with our communities. We are a patriotic nation, and we should be proud to mark these achievements together.

Our time in this place is valuable and important. By passing this Bill we will be removing what has become an administrative procedure of approving the measure under the current Act. Instead we will be able to pass the order more quickly, reducing the amount of parliamentary time currently required and responding to events in a much more effective manner. Here’s to hoping we are soon able to celebrate more football finals so that we can put this new procedure to the test.

I believe the Bill does include appropriate safeguards, with the ability retained for any Member of this House to request a consultation if they so desire. The Bill also maintains the need for specific dates and times for extensions of the hours to be specified so it does not give the green light to this happening on an increased basis; it simply means that when an appropriate time comes, we are able to make it easier to extend licensing hours.

I know I speak for many colleagues across the House when I say that I have such great memories of times spent with others in pubs across my constituency and the wider region. As a member of the all-party group on beer, I am never shy of saying yes to a drink and supporting our fabulous breweries up and down the country. This Bill has many benefits, including cutting bureaucracy and making it easier for the nation to celebrate great successes. I thank the hon. Member for South Shields once again for bringing this Bill before the House today.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale): I call Feryal Clark on the Opposition Front Bench.

Feryal Clark (Enfield North) (Lab): I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) for bringing this important Bill before the House today and for being successful in the private Member’s Bill ballot. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly), the right hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) and the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards), who have spoken in the debate.

As we have heard, this Bill would amend section 197 of the Licensing Act 2003, granting our hospitality sector more freedom to extend licensing hours with shorter notice, creating a simplified parliamentary process and enabling a swifter response to relaxation requests. It would allow our communities to celebrate events of national significance in hospitality venues for longer, providing a welcome boost to businesses and fans.

Currently, under section 197 of the Act, Parliament must approve the relaxation order in both Houses and best practice is to complete a full public consultation. This can take a significant amount of time. Last year, as has been highlighted, when our Lionesses progressed to England’s first cup final since 1966 requests to extend licensing hours came in late and during a parliamentary recess, making it impossible to grant the request through Parliament. This denied many businesses the opportunity to serve customers early and the opportunity for supporters to get behind our team.

Pubs, bars and restaurants could open from 10 am for the women’s world cup final but could not serve until 11 am. Early opening and service would have provided a fitting boost for the Lionesses and also for the hospitality industry, which has suffered so much over the last few years. The industry has suffered a toxic cocktail of rising energy costs, recruitment issues, the pandemic, and cost of living and inflation pressures among others. Therefore, now more than ever the sector needs a boost.

As we all know, and as has been said, sporting events can have a significant impact on the hospitality industry and our communities. The world cup final last year was expected to bring a £41 million boost to the industry alongside an extra 1 million people in pubs, bars and restaurants. Our hospitality sector brings a huge boost to the UK economy, generating £54 billion in tax receipts alongside £7 billion of business investments in 2022.

We all know how important our pubs and restaurants are to our communities, but the impact goes much further. A staggering 42% of tourists want to visit a pub when visiting the UK; so our hospitality sector is something to shout out about not only here at home, but also abroad. I know many in the House today will share this view. We are currently denying our pubs, bars and restaurants a full opportunity to benefit from this. It is clearly an opportunity missed, and I hope it will not be missed again with the progression of this Bill.

This summer, we have more fantastic sporting events, including the Olympics, Paralympics and Tour de France, and in 2028 our country will host the Euros. With so much sport on offer, it is not difficult to imagine a similar set of circumstances recurring in the coming years.

I am pleased with the relevant safeguards in the Bill, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. For example, the option to consult will be retained, enabling decisions to be made once potential concerns, such as noise and antisocial behaviour, have been considered. The negative resolution procedure will also allow the order to be debated, if successfully requested by any parliamentarian. With support from across the House, as well as the hospitality industry, the Bill should progress; I am very pleased to support it today.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Laura Farris): I congratulate the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) on her success in the ballot and on presenting this very worthwhile private Member’s Bill. I can confirm that she has the full support of the Government; we will do all we can to accelerate its progress through the other place. I should add that if—hopefully when—the Bill receives Royal Assent, I think we should take a celebratory parliamentary trip to the revolving dancefloors of the club in South Shields that she used to promote back in the day.

As the hon. Lady set out, the Licensing Act 2003 already makes provision for the Secretary of State to make an order that relaxes licensing hours for an occasion of exceptional international, national or local significance. The effect of the hon. Lady’s private Member’s Bill does not result in any proposed change to the frequency with which that discretion may be exercised. In fact, it has been used only relatively sparingly, on a case-by-case basis, in the last decade; she gave the example of the King’s coronation, Her late Majesty’s two last jubilees—the diamond and platinum jubilees—the royal weddings, the FIFA World cup and, more recently, the final of the Euros. The benefits include: supporting communities to come together to celebrate these important events; supporting businesses by enabling them to stay open for longer and increase revenues; and ensuring that licensing authorities do not have the burden of processing numerous individual requests for extension.

The Bill proposes to amend the Licensing Act so that the orders are subject to the negative resolution procedure, rather than the affirmative. On those rare occasions when the Government have previously extended licensing hours, the plans have always received cross-party support in both Houses and have passed unopposed. The Bill results in the additional benefit of enabling extensions to be implemented at short notice if necessary, including when Parliament is in recess. Current arrangements mean that fast-paced extensions are simply not always possible, which was particularly problematic when the Lionesses reached the final in Australia last year. The Bill will rectify that issue and ensure that licensing hours can be extended at short notice where necessary. Having said that, let me be clear that the Government fully intend to continue to plan ahead so that, wherever possible, licensing hour extension orders can be brought forward with sufficient time for public consultation and notice.

I once again thank the hon. Member for South Shields for bringing forward this legislation, and everybody who has spoken in support: my hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards) and for Bury North (James Daly), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). The Bill introduces a simple measure that will free up parliamentary time and help the Government to continue to support our treasured local pubs.

Mrs Lewell-Buck: With the leave of the House, I would like to thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their wholehearted support. I look forward very much to my pub constituency tour, but I have to tell the Minister that, sadly, the revolving dancefloor got old and tired—a bit like me—and is no more. I urge some caution around the comments made by the right hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey); I am not now suddenly a fan of mass deregulation, and think these matters should always be considered on a case-by-case basis.

I have many more people to thank: on the Government Benches, the Minister and the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris); Home Office officials; the Public Bill Office; and my invaluable senior researcher Rebecca Natton. I also thank the British Beer and Pub Association, the Night Time Industries Association, along with its chair and hospitality champion Sacha Lord, and my hon. Friend on the Front Bench the Member for Enfield North (Feryal Clark). Most of all, I want to thank all those who work in our hospitality industry, because without their hard work and contribution, our communities and local economies would not be what they are today. Finally, I would just like to say “Cheers!” to the Government for supporting my Bill and, in commending it to the House, I add that I definitely owe the Minister, among many more people, a good drink.Question put and agreed to.Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).


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