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Talking Licensing at the House of Lords Select Committee

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Talking Licensing at the House of Lords Select Committee

‘Do one thing each day that scares you’ – a quote which according to Google is either attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt – or for the younger amongst you is a line from Baz Luhrmann’s song ‘Everybody’s free to wear Sunscreen’

On 22nd November I travelled to the Houses of Parliament and appeared, at their request, to give evidence before the House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003. Receiving the invitation certainly ticked the ‘do one thing each day that scares you’ box for the day! In the event it was a fascinating and very interesting experience, and also a privilege to be asked to attend and contribute.

The Committee was set up in May 2016 to conduct a review of the Licensing Act 10 years after it came into force. The Committee has to report by 31 March 2017.

Following a public call for written evidence by 2nd September, the Committee then invited oral evidence from selected parties involved on all sides of the Act.

The Committee Chairman is Baroness McIntosh of Pickering and she is quoted as saying “The Licensing Act 2003 enabled premises to serve alcohol for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While many heralded the Act as the start of a more continental drinking culture, others predicted round-the-clock consumption, leading to disorder and a deterioration in public health.

“But what has the reality actually been like? Has deregulation allowed the drinks industry to thrive? Have drinkers embraced a more relaxed and healthier approach to alcohol? What happened to the anticipated café culture?

“For good or ill, the Licensing Act has altered the drinking landscape of England and Wales, but an examination of the changes is long overdue.

The session before me involved the head of legal services for Sainsburys, Waitrose’s Manager of Regulatory Affairs and the Customer Operations Director for Ocado. Illustrious company indeed. Previously evidence has come from Government, Local Authorities, residents groups, Police, Magistrates and other members of the legal profession.

I was asked to attend because of my involvement with several Social Club groupings including the Alliance of British Clubs and the National Union of Liberal Clubs amongst others. Joining me at the session was the President of the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union and a representative from the Association of London Clubs. One of the Committee members is Lord Smith of Hindhead who is the Chief Executive of The Association of Conservative Clubs Ltd

The session took place in the Committee Rooms in the Houses of Parliament and involved responding to questions from the 12 Lords constituting the Committee. We had been pre-warned of some of the questions, but the Committee were free to ask anything they wished. Their questions covered a wide range of topics touching on our views on the effectiveness of the Act, whether the Club Premises Certificate system is working as intended, and the effect of brewery ties on whether a Club is acting in good faith. Other questions covered the Temporary Events system and discussions about Clubs holding Premises Licences.

The Committee were clearly very well informed and knowledgeable on the day to day workings of the Act. They were asking detailed questions on how it could be improved or changed. It was obvious they were taking their role very seriously and I left feeling that they had listened carefully to what was said and will take our comments on board.

I await their report in March with interest!

If you are interested in the detail, transcripts of evidence appear on the Select Committees’ part of the parliament.uk website

Peter Adkins

Peter is our Director of Regulatory Services and highly regarded for his specialism in Licensing and Gambling Law. 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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