Northern Ireland is next in line to have its licensing legislation updated.

Northern Ireland Minister, David Hanson MP, today (20 July) announced proposals for the reform of the licensing rules in the province.

The first piece of draft legislation will go out for consultation later this year and should come into force by Christmas 2007. This legislation will introduce new enforcement measures, including immediate temporary closure powers for the police, a penalty points system for licensees who break the law and new council licensing officers.

It will also allow a modest extension of opening hours for certain licensed premises, not including off-licences.

The second piece of legislation will be more significant, although the policy objectives may change in the intervening period, and will be drafted in 2008-9 for consultation.

Proposals include the transfer of responsibility for licensing from the courts to reformed district councils, the introduction of six licensing objectives - including the promotion of public health and the prevention of crime and disorder - and the replacement of the 12 categories of licence with premises and personal licences, similar to that recently introduced in England and Wales.

The potential impact to business of abolishing the surrender provision that currently exists will be assessed before a decision is made on whether to retain it or not.