When I was a trainee solicitor I made a very early decision to become a licensing lawyer for two main reasons: my principal, Les Green, took me out for fabulous lunches and dinners and everything you needed to know was contained in two Acts of Parliament easy choice good lunch and dinners and one text book.
Twenty five years on, the role of a licensing lawyer has changed considerably. Gone are the lengthy lunches and dinners, replaced by having to research so many points of reference to see what is current and what is about to change.
The licensing law landscape may have been changed at root by the Licensing Act 2003 and the Gambling Act 2005, but the constant additional changes by Statutory Instruments and other pieces of legislation that impact on licensing, entertainment and gambling is phenomenal.
Those who are interested in keeping up to date with such developments will have seen that the Government intends that the new Immigration Bill contains a range of powers, including measures to deal more effectively with businesses offering employment to those here illegally. The draft Bill can be seen at the following link: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2015-2016/0074/cbill_2015-20160074_en_1.htm
This makes for interesting reading, particularly Parts 2 and 3 of Schedule 1 to the Bill, which propose a number of amendments to the Licensing Act. These will impact on premises licences and personal licences and include the power to refuse licences for the “prevention of illegal working in licensed premises”, and the Secretary of State being designated as a responsible authority.
There are detailed descriptions of rights of entry and appeals in relation to these areas but on my interpretation of the draft Bill, which had its first reading on 17 September 2015, there is significant confusion as to how it will practically impact on the regulator’s ability to, for example, review a premises licence. I think some careful thinking and development of the drafting needs to take place before this can be integrated into the Licensing Act.
However, this has been the case previously and we are still left with the confusion over the introduction of summary reviews thanks to the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, which has not been smoothly integrated into the Act.
In the next E-News Colin Manchester and I will produce an article in relation to a live example we have at the moment with regards to summary reviews and the surrender of a premises licence. This is an interesting developing point in itself but outlines how the introduction into the existing primary legislation of another Act of Parliament can often lead to disjointed law which leads to confusion for all parties.
On top of this we have to constantly keep abreast of where late night levies are being considered and, importantly, the fact that the Government is considering changing the procedures to introduce a levy to make it a more simplified process.
We recently attended the ALMR meeting and we are aware that Kate Nicholls is lobbying on behalf of the trade to ensure that this is dealt with in a even, handed fair way.
We also have the issue in relation to shop opening hours on Sundays. In relation to this, a Parliamentary Briefing Note has been published in the House of Commons Library. The aim of this is to look in detail at the potential for allowing shops to open for longer hours on a Sunday.
Those of us who have been involved in licensing for long enough will remember the flurry of activity when Sunday dancing regulations were relaxed, and this may well lead to significant work, should the Government decide to relax the restrictions on opening hours on a Sunday.
We will continue to monitor all of these developments, and report through subsequent newsletters as we are able to do so.
It does seem a long time ago since Les Green would call me in the office to go and pick him up in his car from another episode of “client relationship development”.