HC Deb 14 December 1999 vol 341 c144
37. Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

If she will issue guidance to magistrates on taking into account evidence of smuggled tobacco and alcohol in the premises concerned when considering applications for the renewal of public house, club and restaurant licences. [101255]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Jane Kennedy)

The Government do not issue guidance on the way in which judicial discretion should be exercised. Magistrates consider all the evidence that is presented at a renewal hearing. Any evidence of the presence of smuggled tobacco and alcohol on premises would clearly be relevant in reaching a decision, but that is obviously a matter for magistrates.

Mrs. Lait

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but is she aware that there is increasing evidence that landlords, whether willingly or unwillingly, are finding that smuggled tobacco and alcohol are sold on their premises? There appears to be increasing evidence that licensing magistrates are not taking that into account. Does she not think that that is a matter of concern, given that the Government's policy is to crack down on smuggling and bootlegging, not to deal with the basic problem by reducing the tax?

Jane Kennedy

If what the hon. Lady says is true, it would be a matter of concern, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently announced measures that should help to detect smuggled alcohol and tobacco. They include use of a national network of X-ray scans to help to detect bulk shipments of smuggled tobacco; compulsory marking of United Kingdom duty-paid cigarettes and tobacco; and new offences and penalties for people who are caught smuggling, handling or selling untaxed tobacco.