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Off-Licences: Special Provisions To Cease

Volume 987: debated on Thursday 3 July 1980

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(1) Part VI of the 1964 Act (licensing in new towns) shall cease to have effect in relation to the licensing of premises in new towns by way of a justices' off-licence.

(2) References in Part VI of the 1964 Act to licensed premises and to a justices' licence shall be construed accordingly.

(3) In consequence of subsection (1) above, the following provisions of the 1964 Act shall be omitted, namely, sections 112(1)( a)(ii) and ( b)(ii) and in section 112(5) the words "or licensed premises".

(4) Nothing in this section affects the operation of section 111 of the 1964 Act as respects an application made before the date on which this section comes into force or made at the licensing sessions next held after that day.

(5) Where the Development Board for Rural Wales is responsible under the Development of Rural Wales Act 1976 for the development of a new town, this section and section (Power to end Special Licensing Provisions) below shall apply as if the Board were the development corporation for the new town.—[ Mr Guy Barnett.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this we may take new clause 9—Power to end special licensing provisions.

I have been encouraged to put forward these provisions as similar clauses appeared in the original draft in the other place. However, they were subsequently excluded from the Bill presented in this House on the ground that the Government needed to shorten the Bill so that it could pass through all its stages in this Session.

However, the Government cut out of the Bill several provisions which are non-controversial and which would be welcomed in certain places. That is certainly true of these new clauses. In principle, the Government are in favour of these amendments to the law. In addition, the New Towns Association asked me to present the two new clauses, and it speaks of unanimity among new towns.

The two new clauses would make a number of changes to the system laid down in the Licensing Act 1964 for the provision of licensed premises and off-licences in new towns, which is at present administered by new towns licensed premises committees. New clause 8 provides for the removal of the off-licences jurisdiction of licensed premises committees and enables it to be restored to the licensing justices.

4.45 pm

New clause 9 will enable the Secretary of State—in this case the Home Secretary—to abolish a licensed premises committee by statutory instrument on the joint application of the committee and the development corporation concerned. The abolition of a licensed premises committee would restore the full jurisdiction to the licensing justices.

At present, the licensing committee for a new town must remain in being until the development corporation is dissolved. Under section 108 of the 1964 Act, a committee is established for each new town with the duty of deciding what licensed premises the new town requires. Under Becton 109 the committee submits proposals to the Secretary of State, specifying the places where licensed premises should be established, what type of licence should be authorised to be held at them, and supplementary provisions dealing with facilities and amenities to be provided at those premises. Such proposals must be advertised and are subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State under section 110, following—if objections are received to the advertised proposal—a hearing or public inquiry.

In many ways, this proposal is an anachronism. The trend is for grocers and other non-specialist retailers to sell intoxicating liquors. The clause restores the control of off-licences to the licensing justices, and removes control from the licensing committee's jurisdiction. As the Government have some sympathy for the new clauses, and as the new towns find them acceptable, I hope that the Government will agree to them.

I think that the hon. Gentleman has said it all. His analysis of what happened to the clauses initially was right. The more one looks at the background, the more one finds that there is no argument in favour of opposing the new clause. Everybody supports the proposal, and I warmly commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.