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Licensing Act (Amendment)

Volume 931: debated on Thursday 12 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he intends to introduce the proposed order amending the Licensing Act (Northern Ireland) 1971.

I am considering several matters in connection with the amendment of the Licensing Act (Northern Ireland) 1971. There are serious problems facing hotels which, as a result of losing their accommodation facilities through terrorist action, are unable under existing law to renew their licences, and there have been representations about the licensing of sports and leisure centres. My right hon. Friend and I hope to be in a position to publish proposals for amending legislation towards the middle of this year.

Is the Minister aware that his promised action will be welcomed by undertakings which are anxious to reinstate themselves and to continue making a contributon to the tourist industry? On the question of licences for community and recreation centres, will he bear in mind that, since these centres are used mainly by young persons, in framing the order he should take account of the need to safeguard their interests?

I am aware of the interest and concern being expressed over a misunderstanding that there would be a much wider amendment of the licensing law. We are aware of the concern which exists about alcoholism, particularly among the young. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall take that into account.

Will my hon. Friend indicate whether it is the Government's policy to continue to grant licences to UDA, Provisional Sinn Fein and all sorts of other clubs which are run by illegal organisations and which attract a lot of young people in Northern Ireland, thus involving them in para-military activity. Is it the Government's intention to get rid of these illegal drinking dens and to restore licences to bona fide business people?

We shall make every effort to deal with the illegal activities of these organisations, particularly on the question of licensing and the non-observance of the licensing law. The existing law needs to be reviewed, however, since several inadequacies in it have emerged. We will not agree, even under a revision of the law, to licensing anything that is illegal.