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House of Lords Committee – Licensing Act 2003

The House of Lords Committee reviewing the Licensing Act 2003 today published its report, following months of evidence gathering, into which the ALMR gave oral and written evidence.

In headline terms, three positives dominate the findings:

• the Committee’s general recognition of the importance of the sector to the economy and supervised consumption
• the rejection of mooted proposals to include health – or any additional factor – as a licensing objective, and;
• the inclusion of recommendations that would satisfy all of the asks of Government that the ALMR made in its Night Time Manifesto.

But there were many other findings and recommendations that will impact ALMR members, across varying areas of operations.

Late night
Of particular relevance to late night operators were recommendations that:
• the Late Night Levy “has failed to achieve its objectives, and should be abolished” and best practice initiatives favoured in its stead
• Early Morning Restriction Orders should be repealed
• plans for Group Review Intervention Powers (GRIPs) should be dropped
• the requirement for Police representations to be accepted ought to be removed
• the “Agent of change” principal should be adopted in licensing and planning considerations, to protect residents and businesses from the impacts of new development
• when a licence is revoked on a summary review, and the livelihood of the licensee is at stake, a Magistrates Court should list appeals for hearing as soon as they are ready.

Licensing/planning climate
Recommendations included that:

• health should not be a licensing consideration, nor any other factor currently included
• nevertheless, statutory requirement for ‘disabled access and facilities statement should form part of an application
• a merger of Planning and Licensing Committees be trialled, although legislation would remain distinct
• Planning and Licensing Committees should pay full regard to each other’s decisions when making their own judgements

Licensing and appeals
The report proposes that:
• Planning Inspectors should hear licensing appeals
• a national database be compiled for personal licence holders, which is linked to the Police National Database
• Councillors should receive mandatory training on licensing issues, to a requirement set out in s182 guidance
• s182 guidance ought also to provide detail of hearing structures and processes, ensuring sufficient times for representations to be made
• s182 guidance should make clear that a s19 Closure Notice pursuant to section 19 does not:
o require the premises to close or cease selling alcohol immediately; or
o entitle the police to require it to do so; or
o entitle the police to arrest a person on the sole ground of non-compliance with the notice
• licensing authorities should provide reasons for cases being settled out of court
• local authorities have the ability to object to TENs
• TENs made to enable large events on adjacent land should elicit an objection.

Minimum Unit Pricing
Dependent upon a future introduction of MUP in Scotland, the Committee recommended that:

• if it proves effective in reducing alcohol harm in Scotland, it be adopted in England and Wales
• in the meantime, other means of reducing excessive consumption via taxation and price control should be considered
• Scotland’s off-trade measures (incl. on multipack pricing, BOGOF and advertising restrictions) should be implemented immediately.