HOWELLS AND JOWELL AT ODDS

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Related tags: Secretary tessa jowell, Kim howells, Tessa jowell, Dr kim howells

by Mike Bennett The Government stands accused this week of creating "absolute confusion" over the role saturation will play as the Licensing Bill...

by Mike Bennett The Government stands accused this week of creating "absolute confusion" over the role saturation will play as the Licensing Bill continues its journey in the House of Commons. A huge gap appeared between Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and her deputy, Dr Kim Howells, over the issue during the Bill's second reading in the House. Jowell said: "We agree that local authorities should take into account the effect that a concentration of licensed premises in a particular area may have on levels of crime, disorder and public nuisance. They need to be able to do so to minimise disruption to local communities." Jowell's view raises the spectre of a return to the days of proving "need" before new licences are approved. New operators would face paying huge premiums, as currently in the West End, to buy existing licences, which is bound to stifle innovation. But Howells, during a later exchange, stated: "Seeking to influence the levels of crime and antisocial behaviour by limiting the numbers of licensed premises in a particular area is just not practical." He claimed it would stifle innovation in the sector and do nothing to solve problems. "Providing powers to refuse new licences on the grounds of saturation would provide an undesirable skew in favour of old, established premises, some of which might have themselves been the focus of disorder," Howells insisted. "Some areas would end up keeping hold of the same old stock ­ the same old dreary drinking dens ­ with the same old opening hours and the same old problems. That would do no good whatever in the towns and town centres that want to renew themselves." But the guidance notes for local authorities issued by the Government back Jowell's view that the "cumulative effect" of licences in any one area should be considered by them. BEDA chief executive Jon Collins said the contradictory statements had created "absolute confusion". "It does appear contradictory. Kim Howells has clearly overlooked the cumulative element, and my guess is that the alternative view, as it appears to be expressed in the guidelines, will be the one the Government will go with in the end," he added. Lawyer Jeremy Allen commented: "We always predicted that the biggest debate in Parliament would be on this very issue. The problem is that the Government has been philosophically against a saturation policy, but they are now starting to recognise the reality of the situation. It almost goes back to the principle of need', which we all thought had disappeared." Laurel Pub Company chief executive Ian Payne said: "The last thing we would want is a return to the days of proving need.

Related topics: Legislation

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