All change in the Licensing Act! House of Lords Select Committee report published

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All change in the Licensing Act! House of Lords Select Committee report published

Overnight on 4th April, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 published the report of its findings. Appointed in May 2016, after the publication of a formal memorandum from the Home Office in June 2016, the Committee issued a call for evidence. They received some 175 written submissions and then heard oral evidence from 65 witnesses.

Those called to give evidence included our Director of Regulatory Services Peter Adkins.

The Committee also attended a meeting of Southwark licensing sub-committee.

The final report has been published (click here for access) and, at some 184 pages, provides a comprehensive review of the Act, the practical aspects of its day to day operations and steps through applications, hearing to enforcement. Very few if any areas of the Act appear to have been left unconsidered.

The Select Committee website has today commented The House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 publishes its report ‘The Licensing Act 2003: post-legislative scrutiny’. In the eleven years since the Act has been in force hardly a year has gone by without major piecemeal amendments to the Act. The Lords Committee, set up to scrutinise the Act, has concluded that it is fundamentally flawed and needs a radical overhaul, including the abolition of local authority licensing committees’

The Committee noticed the significant change in where alcohol is sold. In 1994 58% was sold by the on-trade, 42% by the off-trade. They quote the current figures as 70% now being sold by off-licence and supermarkets. The Committee considered how Scotland approaches off-trade sales and suggest these should be followed in England and Wales.

There are notably no changes proposed to stop licences being available 24 hours.

The Report contains a number of recommendations. The thinking behind each of these is gone into in detail in the report. We summarise these below and we will provide a more detailed article in due course.

  • Compulsory Training – the Committee recommend all Licensing Committees should undertake compulsory training to a standard to be set. There is also a proposal that there should be the development of a comprehensive Police Licensing Officer training programme.
  • The administration of Licensing should be transferred over to the Planning Committee. There should be a trial of this proposal first run in various pilot areas. Further those sitting on Licensing Committees should take into account and follow any Planning Committee decision (and vice versa).
  • In the same area there should be adopted a full ‘Agent of Change’ approach to new planning and licensing decisions to help licensed premises from the consequences of new build developments. This means that those involved in developments would need to take into account pubs, clubs, restaurants etc in the area and take necessary mitigating steps.
  • With a move to Planning would come the transfer of appeals from Magistrates Courts to the equivalent of the Planning Inspectorate.
  • Early Morning Restriction Orders (EMRO) and Late Night Levy’s come in for comment. The Committee felt EMROs should be repealed and Late Night Levies too. If Late Night Levies are to stay they should be arranged for the proceeds to be split 50/50 between Police and Councils. Community and Ancillary Sellers Notices should be repealed.
  • There are recommendations for procedural changes.
    • Applicants would not need to advertise their applications in a newspaper, they should be advertised on-line with the Licensing Authority instead
    • Whilst there would be no change to the Licensing Objectives (specifically no Health Objective), applicants for a Premises Licence will need to be accompanied by a disability access and facilities statement
    • For Temporary Event Notices, currently only the Police and Environmental health can object, the recommendation is that the Licensing Authority should be able to object as well
    • Community and Ancillary Sellers Notices should be repealed.
  • Licensing fees have been a hot topic, it is proposed that these should be set locally to reflect the local cost of administering the Act
  • Much overdue is the recommendation for a national database of Personal Licence holders, the Committee feel this should be linked to the Police National database.
  • Clubs have always enjoyed a slightly different regime under the Act and there are no changes proposed to this other than the removal of the need for a two day waiting period for new members of Clubs who hold a Club Premises Certificate.
  • The Minimum Unit Pricing regime in Scotland was considered and it was considered that this should be revisited in England and Wales once the Scottish Government publish their assessment of its operation.
  • There are proposals to change Closure Orders making it totally clear that the service of such an order does not require the Premises to close or cease selling alcohol immediately, nor entitle the Police to do so, and prevent the Police from arresting a person on the grounds of failure to comply with a notice.
  • There are also recommendations on Interim Steps, the s182 Guidance concerning a Committee accepting representations by Police, and the Act now being amended so it does apply at airports and ports. Full details are in the report
  • Scotland have restrictions on multi-pack pricing, a ban on buy one get one free, restrictions on advertising drinks promotions and a blanket Challenge 25 policy. The Committee consider these should be considered and introduced.

What happens now?

According to the information on the Select Committee websiteThe Government will normally make a response to a select committee report, either publishing it itself (as a Command Paper) or sending a memorandum to the committee, which can be published as a special report (simply saying, in effect, “we have received the following reply …”), although the committee can publish the response with further comments or take further evidence.

The Government has undertaken to reply within two months of the publication of the report, when possible, but may seek the committee’s agreement to allow a longer period. In some cases where a report has recommendations affecting a body outside Government (for example the Bank of England) responses will be received from more than one source. It is sometimes convenient for the committee to publish such responses together. The Government’s replies to reports from the Committee of Public Accounts are published as Treasury Minutes (which are Command Papers).’

We await the response with interest!

Peter Adkins Director of Regulatory Services

Peter is highly regarded for his specialism in Licensing and Gambling Law. and was called to give evidence before the Select Committee.

The guide to the legal profession, The Legal 500, recognises Peter’s specialism in this area and he is regularly engaged by clients all over the country involved in all aspects of the Licensed trade. Peter deals with pubs, restaurants and hotels, social and members clubs, casinos, gambling establishments, shops and late night take-aways. Peter and the firm are able to look after all their legal needs.

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