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LABOUR MPs RAISE CONCERNS ABOUT COUNCILS' TAKEOVER OF LICENSING DUTIES

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Hansard 26 June: Column 641 ...
Hansard 26 June: Column 641

Home office minister Mike O'Brien defended the government's white paper proposals to transfer liquor licensing responsibilities from magistrates' courts to local authorities.

Diana Organ, Labour MP for Forest of Dean, said: 'The magistrates bench in Coleford in Forest of Dean is particularly concerned about the issue as magistrates do not believe that the local

authority has the expertise to deal with the matter. Moreover, my local authority in Forest of Dean is concerned about the costs it may incur should such a modernisation take place'.

And Bill O'Brien, Labour MP for Normanton and former leader of Wakefield MBC, said there must be a review of the licensing laws, for planning and other issues, but he added: 'Given the expertise and material that magistrates and magistrates' clerks have obtained over a period of time, I consider that magistrates should be on the licensing committees. It would be wrong to ignore the expertise in the clerk's office and on the magistrates' bench'.

Mr O'Brien said local authorities had expressed some concern about costs, but the white paper made provision for administrative costs to be met from fees. 'Local residents need some say in the way in which the licensing scheme operates. After due consideration, we took the view that the best way of ensuring that local residents had a say was for their elected representatives to play a key part in making decisions', he said.

The minister added that magistrates would continue to have an important role in the administration of licensing law and, particularly, in imposing penalties and as part of the appeals

process.

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