Welsh want licensing control

20 August, 2010

Wales wants the right to set its own licensing laws, as is already the case in Scotland.

Welsh Assembly members believe devolved powers would give them more control over issues such as pricing, opening hours and tackling alcohol-related problems involving health and crime.

Although formal discussions have yet to take place with the coalition government, Welsh Office minister David Jones has already criticised the proposals, saying a “joined-up approach” was required for England and Wales.

But Welsh Assembly health minister Edwina Hart is determined to press on. “The Welsh Assembly has consistently lobbied the UK government on this issue, but there has only been limited progress,” she said.

“It is also clear from discussions in the chamber that there is a broad consensus among Assembly members to seek these powers.”?Hart believes the Police Reform & Social Responsibility Bill, which will be debated at Westminster this autumn, could be amended to include licensing devolution for Wales.

Hart is on record as a supporter of minimum pricing for alcohol, a policy also favoured by the SNP government in Scotland, but which has failed to win cross-party support.

Critics of devolved licensing in Wales say shoppers will simply buy their drinks in England if the country makes alcohol more expensive.

David Davies, owner of Sketty Wines in Swansea, said he had mixed feelings about the proposals, but welcomed any attempt to curb the proliferation of licences in Wales.

“To be honest, these days a licence is a joke,” he said. “They might as well just send it to you in the post. There’s no control and you don’t even need to understand the English language to get one.

“When I first came into this business it was very strict and there were very few licences granted unless you could prove one was needed.”

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