Home Office takes back licensing control

23 July, 2010

The Home Office is to take back control of drinks licensing issues from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. The

DCMS’s John Penrose could have the shortest tenure of any licensing minister to date, having only been appointed to the role just over two months ago.

Drinks licensing transferred to the DCMS in 2004, in a move that was seen to reflect a more relaxed approach to alcohol sales and a move away from an association with policing and crime. A Home Office spokesman said on Tuesday that the liquor licensing portfolio would not necessarily be placed with an individual minister. OLN legal editor Peter Coulson said: “Alcohol has moved back to the Home Office but entertainment licensing has not which, to me, is a bizarre situation.” He said politicians were confused between “licensing per se, and the abuse of alcohol”. “Linking crime and disorder to alcohol licensing is debatable. You can link it to consumption and a lack of education and various other things. But to link an administrative activity – licensing – to crime and disorder, for which we have penalties and sanctions already, is a problem for the whole of the licensed trade.” Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “The Home Office has been taking a leading role in alcohol policy for some time. This merely confirms its primacy of these areas. “We have built strong relationships with its ministers and officials and will continue to make the case for a fair licensing system that supports responsible businesses and tackles problem premises.” A Home Office document, published this week, sets a September deadline for developing proposals for increased local authority and police powers to remove or refuse licences for problem sites. It wants to develop options for a ban on below-cost sales by November and have a strategy to use tax and pricing as potential weapons against binge-drinking by April.

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