Time for Reform
Proposals for the Modernisation of our Licensing Laws
Synopsis of the Trust's response
Summary of Government proposals
The Government White Paper Time for Reform: Proposals for the Modernisation of our Licensing Laws proposes to replace the existing systems for licensing the sale of alcohol, music & dancing, and night cafés
with a single system.
Places that do any of these activities will need a premises licence. Only one licence will be needed, which will define the conditions under which it can operate. This licence will operate indefinitely. Statutory closing hours will be abolished, specific ones may be defined in the individual licence for each of the premises.
If premises sell alcohol (off- as well as on-licences) then they will need to be under the control of someone with a personal licence. In general, anyone with a personal licence will be able to run any type of licensed
premise. Providing they have a clean criminal record, anyone with the appropriate qualification will in general be issued with a personal licence.
The proposals also include the closing of a number of loopholes that currently allow the supply of alcoholic drinks to those under 18.
Synopsis of the Trust's submission
(Click here if you would like to read a copy of the full submission.)
- There is a potential problem of conflict of interest when district councils, the proposed new licensing authorities, are themselves the operators of premises requiring a licence, or are involved in a joint venture in the leisure industry. We have experience in Durham of the local authority sending officers
to a licensing hearing in support of an application (which we were opposing) for a licence for a new large pub in a new leisure complex, being developed by a company in which the Council is a minority shareholder.
- Our main concern is with the problems of vandalism, disorder, and anti-social behaviour by drinkers who have left the pubs and clubs and who are now making their way through the streets of this small City. By and large, the problems do not occur inside the pubs but outside them. It may not be possible to identify which establishment any particular individual patronised, indeed he or she will probably have visited several. The conduct of individual licensees may not have been particularly blameworthy, the problem is the cumulative effect. The White Paper's approach of sanctions against individual licencees will not work in these circumstances.
- This is exacerbated by the proposal that the burden of proof should lie on the objectors before a licence can be removed or have more stringent conditions attached. The White Paper does not consider the possibility of a licensing authority setting a licensing regime that is too lax, so the problem might not be that licensees were breaching the terms of their licence, but that those terms need tightening up.
- We find extraordinary the suggestion that possession of a personal licence should qualify someone to run anything from a corner store selling the odd bottle of wine through to a large city-centre night-club. Commercial pressures will lead to companies taking risks, and local residents and local communities will suffer till the problem is sorted out. On the other hand, small hopkeepers do not need to learn all about the intricacies of licencing law and may choose to stop selling alcohol.
- The White Paper allows the setting of a condition on licensed premises that it must exclude all those under 18, even if they were only buying soft drinks. We think it should be possible to apply this condition to pubs near schools, in term time.
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