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Licensing Act 2003

Volume 517: debated on Monday 1 November 2010

The proposals for amendments to the 2003 Act will be included in the police reform and social responsibility Bill, which will be introduced later in the year.

Local residents and businesses in my constituency feel effectively gagged and excluded from the current licensing application process. What plans do the Government have to improve the fairness of the system?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, because the consultation that the Government embarked on in relation to reforms to the Licensing Act was precisely on that issue—about rebalancing the Act in favour of local communities. He makes his point very well, and we will bring forward proposals in due course.

Those of us who argued against the 2003 Act did so on the basis that 24-hour drinking would not introduce a café society to the UK where youngsters sipped wine into the early hours discussing Baudelaire, and the only thing that the Act has done is to move yobbishness, drunkenness and violence from late nights to early mornings.

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, and it will be interesting to hear whether the former licensing Minister, the hon. Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe), who is now on the shadow Front Bench, will be able to explain why that café culture, which was supposed to be created as a result of the previous Government’s reforms, has perhaps not arisen. In reality, we have seen an increase of about 65% in the number of hospital admissions linked to alcohol over the five years to 2008-09, and that is why we think that reforms are required.

In the Minister’s work on the Licensing Act, will he ensure that he looks carefully at the licensing of one-off and annual events, such as Strawberry Fair in my constituency, so that delays in determination, because of late interventions, for example, do not mean that the events have to be cancelled regardless of what is decided?

I am not familiar with the detail of the individual event to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but we are looking at temporary event notices and how community events are licensed, and if issues continue to prevail in relation to that situation no doubt he will write to me.