House of Lords Select Committee Report on the Licensing Act 2003 published

The long awaited report from the House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 has reached the conclusion that a “radical comprehensive overhaul is needed”.

Whilst there are some positive comments, a great deal of the evidence heard, and the recommendations made, is scathing of the current licensing system.

The full report runs to some 180 pages and the recommendations include:

  • Licensing Fees
    Should be set locally by Licensing Authorities as opposed to centrally.
  • Integration of Licensing and Planning
    The Committee recommends that there should be a trial merger of Licensing and Planning Committees.  Whilst the Committee acknowledged that most members of Licensing Committees take their responsibilities seriously and reach sensible conclusions, reform of the system is essential. The Committee propose that this is to be trialled in a few pilot areas over the next two years.
  • Licensing Appeals
    Licensing Appeals to be considered by the Planning Inspectorate as opposed to Magistrates Courts.  The Committee also urges Local Authorities to publish any reasons which lead them to settle an Appeal.  The report goes further, saying that Committees should hesitate to settle where residents have expected to rely on such a decision.
  • Temporary Event Notices
    The report recommends that the Licensing Authority is given the opportunity to reject a TEN application. Currently the only Responsible Authorities that can object to such applications are the Police and Environmental Health Officer.
  • Minimum Pricing
    Assuming that minimum pricing is brought into force in Scotland, and it is successful, the Committee recommends that it is adopted in England and Wales.  The report recommends that legislation based on Part 1 of the Alcohol Etc (Scotland) Act 2010 should also be introduced in England and Wales at the first available opportunity.  The measures currently in place in Scotland relating to supermarkets and off-licences are:
  • Restrictions on multi-pack pricing, which prevent any form of multi-buy offer relating to alcohol;
  • A ban on ‘buy one get one free’ offers, or any other offer including free alcohol;
  • Restrictions on the advertising of drinks promotions, restricting them to a specific designated alcohol display areas in off-licence premises;
  • A requirement that all premises introduce a Challenge 25 Policy as standard.

Until these measures are introduced in England and Wales the Committee recommends that the current Section 182 Guidance should be amended to encourage the adoption of these measures by the off trade.

  • Community and Ancillary Sellers Notices
    These should not be brought into force and should be repealed.
  • Training
    All Council Licensing Committees should undertake a minimum compulsory training and guidance is to be amended to introduce a requirement to undertake training to a prescribed standard.  A major criticism of the report is the inconsistency in how licensing hearings are run.
  • Newspapers
    Applicants should no longer be required to give notice of the application advertisement in a local newspaper. However notices should be given prominently by on-line notification systems run by the Local Authority.
  • Early Morning Restriction Orders
    The Committee recommends that in due course these measures be repealed, as no such orders have been introduced anywhere in England or Wales.
  • Late Night Levy
    The Committee also recommends that the Levy be repealed as they believe that it has failed to achieve its objectives.  However, if the Levy continues, the recommendation is that proceeds should be divided equally between the police and councils.
  • Disabled access facility statement
    The Committee felt that the law should be amended to require, as currently in Scotland, an application for a Premises Licence should be accompanied by a disabled access facilities statement.
  • National Database
    The creation of a national database of Personal Licence Holders.
  • Police Supervision
    Magistrates Courts to be given powers to better supervise police powers on Closure Orders and Summary Reviews.
  • Airports
    The Licensing Act to be amended so that it applies airside at airports so that premises providing licensable activities would require a Premises Licence.

The future?
The Government will now provide a detailed response to the proposals which is due to be within the next 2 months.

It of course remains to be seen whether the Government decides to act upon the recommendations made by the Committee and this requires further debate in the House of Lords.  Although those proposals which require a change in primary legislation may be caught somewhere behind Brexit, the less controversial proposals are recommended for immediate change.

We will keep you informed of the Government’s response as we begin to see how the licensing regime may begin to alter in the future.

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