Okay, so, we’ve clearly established that Lib Dem MPs are being a bit daft opposing new laws to devolve pub licensing to local authorities, right? Well, it turns out (well, it’s news to a lily livered southerner like me), that in Scotland – where they already have liberalised licensing hours – Labour have just reneged on a coalition agreement to introduce legislation to devolve off-license licensing to local authorities. And the Lib Dem MSPs are up in arms:
A Lib Dem minister said: “In the past, we fought very hard to prevent rebellions and there was usually only one [Mike Rumbles], but now you could see the whole party in revolt.”
The cause of Lib Dem anger was the vacillation and confusion among Labour ministers over changes to off-licence opening hours. The agreed coalition position was to hand over control of opening hours to local licensing boards but, at the last minute, Labour ministers were persuaded to drop this policy by mutinous back-benchers.
One Lib Dem MSP said: “Labour ministers actually voted against one of the guiding principles of their own bill. We cannot live with that.”
Another said members of the Lib Dem parliamentary group were “spitting blood” over Labour’s capitulation and that MSPs had decided they were now in a “looser coalition” with Labour than before and would approach legislation on an “issue by issue” basis.
Well, yay to Lib Dem MSPs then, but you’ll forgive me if I’m a little confused. In both the cases of the Lib Dems and Labour, it would seem that both parties are totally all over place on this issue.