Magistrates vow to fight for licensing control

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Magistrates have vowed to continue their fight against plans to move licensing control to local authorities despite reports that ministers have...

Magistrates have vowed to continue their fight against plans to move licensing control to local authorities despite reports that ministers have already made up their minds.

The Magistrates' Association claims compulsory training for licensing justices has helped ensure a more consistent approach to licensing decisions across the country.

Chairwoman of the association's licensing committee Anne Norton told thePublican.com the training programme and the recently revised and updated Good Practice Guide for licensing magistrates were helping to ensure consistency.

"It is the first time that training has been mandatory for licensing benches, and it has proved very successful," she added.

The association is continuing to lobby to retain control of responsibility for licensing, despite the government's determination to transfer powers to local authorities under its plans for licensing reform.

In the absence of an opportunity to actively debate the issue with the government, consistent application of the law is magistrates' best argument for retaining licensing control, added Mrs Norton.

"The Home Office seems to have gone very quiet on the matter at the moment, probably until after the General Election," she said.

"When the proposal comes before Parliament, we will oppose it in the Commons and the Lords."

She acknowledged that apparent inconsistencies, such as the recent decision by Brighton magistrates not to follow the example of the neighbouring Hastings bench in granting a blanket summer extension to encourage tourism, were frustrating to the licensed trade.

A survey of licensees for The Publican's Market Report last August showed that 52 per cent of publicans favoured magistrates retaining control and only 14 per cent actively supported shifting responsibility to local authorities.

However, the Home Office has given a strong message that the proposal is non-negotiable, and will appear in the Licensing Reform Bill.

Insiders say Home Secretary Jack Straw agreed to meet a delegation from the Independent Family Brewers of Britain at the end of this month only on condition that no attempt was made to change the government's policy on licensing control.

Related topics Licensing law

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