Earlier in the year, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 gave its findings. Last week, the Government published its official response.
House of Lords Select Committee
The House of Lords Select Committee set out various findings following a consultation into post-legislative scrutiny of the current Licensing Act and regime. The response sets out the Government’s position on the Committee’s findings, and sets out the Government’s response to the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations.
The Government isn’t seeking to reinvent the wheel and completely overhaul the existing licensing regime, but does propose some changes. For example, the Government was invited to consider amending the licensing objectives, but this has not taken place.
I will deal below with some of the points of note arising from last week’s response.
The Government was asked to consider whether implementing a minimum price per unit of alcohol would be sensible. This is currently the subject of ongoing litigation between the Scottish Government and the Scotch Whisky Association. As a result, the Government has decided to await the outcome of that case before making a decision.
I have written recently about the overlaps and issues which arise between the planning and licensing regimes. The Select Committee recommended amalgamating these functions. The Government says in its response, however, that it does not intend take this approach. It instead notes that better training for decision-makers and stronger guidance on how licensing hearings should be conducted would be more appropriate.
Licensing hearings where matters are settled or are not in dispute
We see on occasions, that some Licensing Authorities demand a hearing should take place to ‘decide’ an application, even where the application is no longer contested. This is often where representations have been made and then subsequently settled between those making them and the Applicant. Sometimes even in cases where there is no cumulative impact policy in place.
The Select Committee states that if a Licensing Sub-Committee wishes to have a hearing where there is not actually a dispute anymore, it should provide reasons why. The Government agreed with this in its response.
It is expected that guidance to this effect will be set out in amended Section 182 Guidance. This will be of some relief to applicants who often feel aggrieved at having to incur legal fees for a hearing which is no longer contested.
Advertisement of applications
The Government’s response states that there are no plans to end the requirement for Applicants to advertise their applications in the cases of full variation applications or applications for new licences.
The licensing objectives
The Select Committee advised, and the Government agreed, that no amendments would be made to the licensing objectives. This means that there will be no further inclusion of a licensing objective relating to the promotion of Public Health.
Temporary Event Notices
The Government does not intend to allow Licensing Authorities the ability to object to Temporary Event Notices. Instead, it proposes that the Section 182 Guidance be amended; recommending that Licensing Authorities should consider how they can best bring temporary event notices to the attention of residents who will be affected by the event.
Licensing training for police officers
The Government has also stated that comprehensive licensing training should be available to all police officers who undertake licensing duties. This will be music to the ears of operators across the country; it will hopefully lead to the officers dealing with licensed premises having better practical and legal knowledge of the licensing regime.
The Committee recommended establishing a database of all personal licence holders across England and Wales. The Government disagreed, however, saying that the need is not sufficient. It suggests that doing this, and linking it to the Police national computer, would be disproportionately expensive.
It is worth noting that the Response details many other items. The above list is not exhaustive.