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By John Grogan

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Related tags Parliamentary beer group Seaside resort Political party

John Grogan
John Grogan
John Grogan looks forward to heated party political debates down the pub in Manchester. Schools have gone back, summer is over and the thoughts of...

John Grogan looks forward to heated party political debates down the pub in Manchester.

Schools have gone back, summer is over and the thoughts of politicians are turning to the party political conference season.

For the first time in a generation, Labour delegates will be drinking their pints in pubs in the proud city of Manchester instead of at a traditional British seaside resort.

So as we sip local brewer Joseph Holt's fine beers at our Parliamentary Beer Group reception in the Ape & Apple, what are the likely topics of conversation concerning the forthcoming parliamentary session starting in the second week in October?

It is unlikely that pubs and beer will feature quite as strongly during this next session as they did in the last. After all, just 12 short months ago we were not certain that the Licensing Act would be implemented in November 2005 and a smoking ban seemed a distant prospect.

The fallout from these two momentous decisions, however, will continue into our parliamentary year and ensure a busy autumn.

In November the Elton Committee will report on implementation of the Licensing Act - the industry will hold its breath in the hope that chairman Sir Les Elton will resist calls from local authorities to allow them to set their own licensing fees.

The first anniversary of the abolition of a fixed closing time for pubs on 24 November is likely to provide an opportunity to reflect on the act's overall impact.

One thing is already clear - no major political party will go into the next general election calling for a return to 11pm closing.

The Government will also respond to results of the consultation, due to end on on 9 October, on guidance concerning the smoking ban.

Politicians of all parties will be pressing for an early announcement concerning the starting date of the ban. And publicans will be hoping for clarity, certainty and the minimum of bureaucracy.

Before Christmas, the Lords will have the final say on the Alcohol Disorder Zones when they vote on the Violent Crime Reduction Bill. Now that the moral panic about binge-drinking has subsided to some degree, the whole concept of the zones seems rather odd.

Their Lordships may well ask which councils are likely to label their own areas as trouble zones, and there could be some close votes on amendments.

Other issues that the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group will focus on in conjunction with industry associations include the continuing debate with Sky over the cost of televised sport - a new House of Commons motion on the subject is likely, plus a determined campaign to encourage the Office of Fair Trading to launch another investigation.

Our own Community Pub Inquiry will report early in the new year - surely the Department for Culture, Media & Sport will have allowed pubs to increase their stakes and prizes by then?

All in all, there's plenty to ponder over that autumnal Manchester pint.

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