The House of Lords Select Committee has made proposals for a major overhaul of the 2003 Licensing Act, describing the legislation as fundamentally flawed. Some of the significant recommendations include:

  • Merging committees that make licensing decision with planning committees
  • Looking at ways Government could control excessive alcohol consumption via taxation and pricing, including minimum unit pricing
  • Setting of fees locally as opposed to nationally

The Government response admitted that a significant number of recommendations could help improve the operation of the Act, although it is not intending to act hastily.

It rejected some proposals, including the merging of licensing and planning, but recognised the licensing system could be made to work more effectively, with co-operation between the two. This has been widely welcomed by the industry Kate Nicholls of the ALMR summed this up: “This should help provide better joined up work between licensing and planning while avoiding a merger that would have created inconsistency for business”

The current structure of licensing fees will be retained (with no increase on the cards), as will licensing objectives.

Most controversial is perhaps the decision not to scrap the Late Night Levy, which have not been widely adopted by councils. However, the Government justified the decision on the basis that it gives local authorities the opportunity to collect a financial contribution towards the costs of policing late night activity from those that profit from the night-time economy. This is despite the low take up thus far by Licensing Authorities nationwide.

A final decision on minimum unit pricing will be subject to the legal case between the Scottish Government and the Scotch Whisky Association and the impact of this will be considered once available.

With the political agenda being a heavy one at the moment, it is perhaps not surprising that the Government did not have the appetite for a major overhaul, with a repeated message in the response of “Thanks but no Thanks”.

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