Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
I declare my football interests as set out in the register and, not surprisingly, congratulate the England team on their truly magnificent achievements and the pleasure they have given to so many millions of our fellow citizens.
The Government justify this order on the grounds that Sunday’s final is an occasion of exceptional national significance for the purposes of Section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, given the achievements of the England football team and the United Kingdom’s successful hosting of the tournament in exception circumstances. Licensed premises will be able to remain open until 11.15 pm on Sunday for the sale of alcohol and the provision of regulated entertainment. Does the extension until 11.15 pm mean that premises have to close by 11.15 pm, or that they can remain open later but are not able to sell alcohol or have regulated entertainment after 11.15pm?
Consultation took place on Tuesday this week with “selected partners”. Who did that include beyond the police and local government representative bodies, including public health and the hospitality industry mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum? Apart from the police, did any other consultees have any reservations or caveats, or perhaps have no firm view one way or the other?
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on football opposed the changes on the grounds of risk of increased public disorder and resulting demands on policing. However, on balance, notwithstanding that feedback, the Government considered the extension of hours appropriate, limited in duration to one day only and the importance of marking this event of exceptional national significance. The Government felt that this event could be marked by an extension of licensing hours but were other options for marking Sunday’s event considered and, if so, what were they?
Earlier today, as the Minister will know, and as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, speaking for the Government, reminded the House that domestic abuse violence increases after big matches and that to many people the words “coming home” represent not a footballing hope but a threat—and a violent threat at that. Have the Government increased support for domestic violence services and the police while the tournament has been taking place?
It appears to have been left a little late in the day to proceed with this order, which was presumably not dependent on the welcome result of the match last night, given that the consultation, such as it was, took place on Tuesday. Were the Government always anticipating extending the licensing hours for the final, in which case could this order have not been tabled sooner to give those affected more notice and to avoid a parliamentary rush?
What assessment have the Government made of the impact of the terms of this order on the number of cases of the latest variant, which have been rising? Can we take it that the medical and scientific advice that the Government presumably sought and received is not expressing any real concern about the impact of extending licensing hours on Sunday?
We support the terms of the order, and hope that the Government have thought it through properly and have credible reasons, which have not been spelt out in the Explanatory Memorandum, for being satisfied that any adverse impacts will be minimal and far outweighed by the benefits. We wish England every success on Sunday night and look forward to a night for us all to remember, irrespective of whether we will be taking advantage of the extension of licensing hours.