Dear Kim, take a trip to Isle of Man

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It seems that the real common sense of licensing reform is happening not at Westminster, but in the middle of the Irish Sea. I was heartened, but not...

It seems that the real common sense of licensing reform is happening not at Westminster, but in the middle of the Irish Sea. I was heartened, but not surprised, to read in last week's Morning Advertiser that the deregulation of permitted hours, introduced on the Isle of Man in 2001, has, in the main, been a huge success. At the time, I enjoyed an enlightening discussion with the island's Home Affairs Minister Allan Bell, who had masterminded the changes (and who received the usual gung-ho rubbishing from Kim Howells as a result). I am glad to see that what he thought might happen has occurred pubs are taking proper advantage of flexibility, opening later when demand is there, but in general, using only one or two extra hours during the week. The police are also in favour, not just because the 11 pm "flashpoint" is gone, but because they can now concentrate on key public-order issues concerning pub activity. The stricter controls on late-night entertainment which may cause disturbance, are the other side of the coin, but in the main the correct balance has been struck. And it works. I should also mention one other benefit for those involved in the Manx licensed trade. The Licensing Act 2001 contains just 18 sections and is 15 pages long. Its provisions are as clear as daylight and there isn't a designated premises supervisor in sight. And please, don't let me hear the Government claim that the Isle of Man is so completely different from the mainland that you need 196 clauses of impenetrable legal jargon to achieve the same result. Just pop over this summer and see whether the pubs and clubs don't look remarkably similar, the activities ditto, and the products on sale are just as alcoholic. And neither the licensees nor customers have three legs, or forked tongues!

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