Licences and Licensing

– in the House of Commons am 3:47 pm ar 22 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department 3:47, 22 Mai 2024

I beg to move,

That the draft Licensing Act 2003 (UEFA European Football Championship Licensing Hours) Order 2024, which was laid before this House on 8 May, be approved.

It is a genuine pleasure to speak about this motion. It is certainly a much greater pleasure than answering the urgent question earlier this afternoon, but admittedly the bar was set fairly low.

This summer the Euro 2024 football championships will take place in Germany. I am delighted that both the England and the Scotland men’s national teams have qualified to take part, although I am sure the House will share my sorrow that the Northern Irish and Welsh teams did not on this occasion. Hopefully, they will be joining England and Scotland in 2028. This draft contingent order seeks to extend licensing hours for venues across England and Wales in the—I hope, extremely likely—event that England or Scotland reaches the semi-final or the final of the upcoming tournament. I am extremely confident that one or even both of those teams will make it to that stage. In fact, I confidently predict that it will be an England v. Scotland final when it comes around. That is probably about the only thing that it is safe to predict at the moment, given the fevered and febrile speculation that is currently under way in these parts.

If England or Scotland, or indeed both teams, reach those stages, the order will extend licensing hours in England and Wales from 11 pm until 1 am on the days of the semi-finals, which are due to take place on 9 and 10 July, and the final, which is scheduled to take place on 14 July. I have no idea whether any other significant events may be taking place around that time as well. People will want to watch those games in the pub, and if there is extra time or there are penalties—or, indeed, any recounts—they will want to be able to enjoy a drink while the penalties or, indeed, the recounts take place. My own experience of a recount in 2010, when I lost a parliamentary constituency by 42 votes, was a painful one that I am not looking to repeat anytime soon.

I know that pubs in my constituency will appreciate being able to stay open a bit longer—pubs such as the Wattenden Arms, the Pembroke in Coulsdon, the Tudor Rose and the Fox. I was just talking to my hon. Friend Scott Mann, who said that pubs in his constituency would like to stay open too—although apparently some of them sometimes show rugby as well as football. He is a great champion of pubs in North Cornwall, and I know that all of us in this House want to support pubs in our respective constituencies.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Clean Power and Consumers)

I am very pleased to see the motion before us today. I wonder whether the Minister shares my slight disappointment that the quarter-finals are not included in this order, given that the first quarter-finals are on Friday 5 July and there may be other things to celebrate on that day—possibly a new Government.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Well, we have to strike the right balance. These types of orders can be used only for events of exceptional significance, and we have chosen to draw the line at the semi-finals and the final. As for other events of significance that may be occurring around then, I am afraid I am as much in the dark as the hon. Gentleman is, but I know that he will join me in wishing pubs in his constituency well. Hopefully, they will be able to enjoy the Euros in a spirit of conviviality as the tournament unfolds. I know that my hon. Friend Mike Wood, a former chair of the all-party parliamentary group on beer, sends his good wishes to pubs in his constituency, and to those up and down the land.

As the House will be aware, under section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Secretary of State can make an order relaxing licensing hours to mark occasions of “exceptional national significance”, which is the very high threshold to which I referred a moment ago. The decision to lay this draft order stems from a consultation that the Home Office conducted earlier this year. Over 80% of respondents were in favour of extending licensing hours for the semi-finals and final if one of the home nation teams reach those stages. Respondents agreed with the proposed duration of a potential extension, which, as I have set out, would extend licensing hours until 1 am the following morning, and they agreed that the order should apply to both England and Wales. Respondents also agreed that it should apply only to sales of alcohol for consumption on the premises, rather than off it.

This order will ensure that premises will be allowed to remain open until 1 am without having to notify the licensing authority—typically the local authority—via a temporary event notice, benefiting both businesses and local authorities. Businesses will save time and money by not having to give temporary event notices, while licensing authorities will save time and money by not having to process them. Of course, temporary event notices can be applied for, but it is a somewhat bureaucratic process. Later closing times will be a welcome boost for pubs and bars at a busy time should either England or Scotland be involved in the semi-finals or final. As I have said already, I fervently hope that both England and Scotland make the final, given that I am a passionate Unionist.

It is right that I acknowledge that the police have expressed some reservations about extending licensing hours—indeed, they say that they are not in favour of it—given the potential for increased crime and disorder. We have carefully considered those representations, and although police deployments and resourcing are operational matters for policing, we know that police forces will put in place plans that will minimise the risk, as they have done in the past. It is worth noting that there have been no significant large-scale disorder incidents linked to licensing extensions during previous tournaments, which is a testament to the fact that forces are well versed in managing these matters, and I am sure the House will join me in thanking police forces up and down the country for everything they do to maintain order and reduce the risk of crime.

I also emphasise that this is a limited two-hour extension to licensing hours, which is a proportionate approach marking these events, and that the contingent order we are considering only covers sales for consumption on the premises after 11 pm. It does not cover premises that sell alcohol only for consumption off the premises, such as off-licences and supermarkets.

Before I finish—normally the most popular words in any speech I give—I will make just two further points of clarification. The first is that if either England or Scotland is successful in reaching either the semi-final or the final, this extension will apply only to licensed venues in England and Wales. This is because licensing is a devolved matter, and it would be for the Scottish Government or the Northern Ireland Department of Justice to make arrangements for extending licensing hours in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which I would strongly encourage them to do. Hopefully they need very little encouragement to do that. Secondly, if neither England nor Scotland reaches the semi-final, normal licensing hours will apply on 9 and 10 July. If either or both teams reach the semi-final but neither team is in the final, normal licensing hours will apply on 14 July, the date of the final.

The House will be aware that Mrs Lewell-Buck is sponsoring a private Member’s Bill—which I think had its Report and Third Reading stages just last Friday, and which the Government fully support—to make orders such as this subject to the negative resolution procedure in the future. This would, of course, rob the House of the opportunity it is currently enjoying to hear my words on this topic, which I am sure would come as a sore disappointment. But if that private Member’s Bill completes its passage through the other place, debates such as these will not happen because we will be using the negative resolution. Obviously that law is not in force now, so we are debating this today in the normal way.

However, if, as we hope and expect, this order currently before the House commands universal support—perhaps even enthusiastic universal support, and we will find out in just a moment when the shadow Security Minister stands up and we are able to determine his level of support and enthusiasm—it will give weight to the point that the hon. Member for South Shields and others have made that debating these orders is not necessarily the best use of precious parliamentary time, given that they are pretty uncontentious and generally matters of unanimous assent, and sometimes even enthusiastic unanimous assent.

In conclusion, we have brought forward this order in recognition of the huge interest there will be in the Euro 2024 tournament, and in particular, the huge interest in the fortunes of England and Scotland, which I know are dear to the hearts of many Members and members of the public up and down the country. Like all England fans, I am hopeful that this will be the year that football finally comes home again, and I am sure that many Members will want to join me in expressing encouragement and support to Gareth Southgate and his team, and also of course to the Scottish team, who I hope also do very well in the tournament. With that thought, I commend this order to the House.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 3:58, 22 Mai 2024

Can I begin by thanking the Minister for his remarks? My hon. Friend Alex Norris unfortunately cannot respond today, so I have been brought off the substitutes’ bench. To cut to the chase, I am pleased to be able to confirm to the Minister our enthusiastic support for this motion.

Football is a positive, powerful force that brings people together. Whether it be the European championships or the World cup, international tournaments can bring our nation together. The Euros this summer will be another focal point and will be watched keenly by millions across the country and indeed around the world. Each of the nations of the UK will have fond memories of supporting and celebrating its national team, and in a world that can sometimes seem pressurised and stressful, these moments have been genuinely joyous. It is no wonder that England and Scotland, and I sense that I would be pushing my luck if I tried to say anything more positive about Scotland—

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security)

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Scotland fans, along with England fans, will be particularly looking forward to this summer’s tournament, and hopefully celebrating great success. We therefore welcome this statutory instrument to extend the licensing hours of premises by two hours, should a home nation reach the semi-finals or final of this summer’s Euros.

Many will welcome this change to allow people to come together to get behind their country, and pubs, clubs and the wider hospitality industry across the country will also appreciate this move. The hospitality industry struggled immensely during the pandemic, and many are still suffering with the effects of that unprecedented disruption. Sadly, dozens of pubs continue to close each month across the UK. These will have been community hubs, places to meet friends and family, and ever more important social spaces when society can sometimes feel increasingly atomised.

Pubs, bars and social clubs are a part of our country, serving an important function that we must work together to protect and support. The opportunity to extend opening hours during what promises to be a very busy period for the sector will, I am sure, be greatly appreciated, so the Opposition are pleased to support the order.

I seek assurances from the Minister on a few points. Have the Government consulted trade bodies to ensure that the hospitality industry is best placed to reap the rewards of this change? It seems sensible to bring them into the process to ensure that this is done in the best possible way to support the industry.

Many will also have concerns about how this change will be policed, and the Minister touched on that. The recent Netflix documentary “The Final: Attack on Wembley” again brought into sharp focus what happened during the Euros in 2021, with public disorder a shameful feature of the latter stages of the tournament, so have the Government had discussions with the police or local government to hear any concerns they might have on these matters? How do the Government intend to respond in such circumstances, should those bodies require any assistance? They will be on the frontline of this change, so their assessment of the situation is, of course, invaluable.

Finally, on a point of process, many were disappointed that an extension of licensing hours was not agreed in time for the Lionesses’ appearance in the women’s World cup final last year. Indeed, many businesses say that they missed out on increased trade due to the extension not being agreed. The process of agreeing temporary relaxations of licensing laws is perhaps over-bureaucratic and potentially not flexible enough to allow quick relaxations to be agreed in time for sporting occasions.

The Minister helpfully mentioned that, last Friday, my hon. Friend Mrs Lewell-Buck steered her Licensing Hours Extensions Bill through Third Reading, with Government support. Her Bill will dramatically improve the process for making temporary extensions to licensing hours, making it less cumbersome. I wish her every success as the Bill now progresses to the other place, and I hope the Government will continue to support it to become law.

In the meantime, the Government, football fans and the hospitality industry can all be assured of the Opposition’s support for the order. I wish both England and Scotland all the very best for the forthcoming tournament.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department 4:03, 22 Mai 2024

I thank the shadow Minister for his support. I am not sure that it was enthusiastic support—

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

I certainly take that in the spirit in which it was intended. Who knows, perhaps this is the last time we will face each other over the Dispatch Box.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department

Yes, for a while. I know that Barnsley Central is close to the top of our target list. I am ever the optimist.

The shadow Minister asked one or two questions about the consultation and the hospitality trade, which was included in the consultation. We have studied it very carefully, and it was 80% in favour. I think much of that enthusiasm came from the hospitality industry itself, which saw this as an opportunity, but of course, hospitality venues need to ensure that they are responsible in the way they look after and serve football fans in their pubs and bars.

The hon. Member mentioned the disorder around the Euros finals three years ago, particularly around Wembley and in central London. Of course, we are talking about licensed premises rather than stadiums, so we are confident the police will be able to operationally manage the extension of licensing hours to 1 am should the extension be activated.

On the actual event itself, we are working very closely with the German police and have a good policing plan in place to ensure we deal with any English fans who we think may cause problems. There is also a good policing plan in place for the Champions League final, which will take place at Wembley in a couple of weeks between Dortmund and Real Madrid. The policing of those tournament football games is being very carefully attended to.

I am glad that we have unanimous consent, I believe, on this topic. It is a nice moment of harmony on which to conclude the debate.

Question put and agreed to.