HC Deb 04 July 1985 vol 82 cc512-3
7. Mr. Robert B. Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received following his statement of 6 June on the licensing laws.

Mr. Mellor

Since 6 June we have received four letters from hon. Members on behalf of constituents and six from members of the public. Of the 10, five supported relaxations in the law relating to permitted opening hours and five were against any change which extended the present closing time of public houses. Ministers have derived great benefit from this correspondence.

Mr. Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does that not confirm that constituents make representations direct to their Members of Parliament rather than to his Department? When can my hon. Friend give an assurance that the licensing privileges enjoyed by hon. Members will be applied to ordinary members of the public?

Mr. Mellor

That matter has been under consideration for some time. I hope that it will be possible to make a decision on it when we have finally evaluated the report on the Scottish survey, which has considered the situation prevailing in Scotland where licensing hours are much more generous.

Mr. Alexander

Does not the current tourist season emphasise the enormous need for a relaxation of the licensing laws? Would it not benefit not only tourists but our wine industry and the British people themselves if we were to have a sensible relaxation? My hon. Friend has referred to the Scottish experiment. When will we have official figures about what is happening there?

Mr. Mellor

I hope that the figures will become available by the autumn, although it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, not for me. There is a strong case for doing this. My hon. Friend has made the point compellingly. Other hon. Members feel equally strongly that the problems of alcohol abuse are such that any change in licensing hours should be the subject of the most careful evaluation. That was the view of the Expenditure Committee when it considered the matter in 1977. We shall try to make progress after we have had a chance to consider the Scottish report, which should shed light on what I regard as a difficult matter.

Mr. Maclennan

Do the Government hope to legislate on the subject in this Parliament?

Mr. Mellor

That is not a matter for me.

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