Lib Dems focus on licensing

14 November, 2008

Party proposes rewarding the good, but only one chance

for under-age offence

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Liberal Democrats are calling for councils to have more flexibility to vary licence fees - and for retailers who behave responsibly to be rewarded with lower licensing costs.

The proposals are included in a 17-page policy document which also calls for minimum pricing, and immediate licence reviews for any store which sells alcohol to under-18s.

The document argues that "while the alcohol industry has made some progress in trying to reduce under-age sales, it is taking far too long". It quotes Home Office figures stating that 350,000 children a year are still managing to buy alcohol from shops.

"We will change the law so that local authorities are able to vary the fees imposed on a licence," the document says. "This will enable local authorities to target problem establishments and better reflect the costs they incur in enforcing the law for different premises and locations."

It adds that "licensees who act responsibly" should be "rewarded with lower fees". "We would insist that local authorities demonstrate to licensees how enforcement costs have been calculated and provide licensees with a right of appeal for changes in their fees."

The party says it would enforce a "one strike and you're out" rule for shops found selling alcohol to children.

"This would include ensuring that any premises proven to have sold alcohol to anyone under-age immediately has its licence reviewed. If the licence holder has failed to demonstrate due diligence in the sale of alcohol then they will have their licence revoked at the first offence ."

OLN legal editor Peter Coulson said minimum pricing was certain to run into problems with European law and described the proposals for under-age sales as "draconian and completely unacceptable".

He described the varied licence fee idea as "a non-starter".

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