The House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 has published its report, nearly a year after being asked to scrutinise the Act. There are a significant number of far-reaching recommendations in the report. A summary of the findings in the report is as follows:
- To merge licensing committees with planning committees, urging the Government to trial this vision going forward.
- Close coordination between licensing and planning systems with much more crossover between the respective legislation.
- Introduction of the “agent of change” concept to protect residents and businesses from the consequences of new development.
- Planning inspectors to hear licensing appeals.
- Minimum unit pricing in England and Wales should follow any introduction in Scotland if proven to reduce excessive drinking.
- Government should seek means to control excessive alcohol consumption through taxing and price.
- Licensing Authorities to publish reasons when cases are settled out of court.
- A mandatory set of minimum training requirements for Councillors to be published.
- The Section 182 Guidance to lay out the structure and process for hearings.
- The requirement for applications to be advertised in a newspaper should be removed.
- Local Authorities to have the power to object to Temporary Event Notices.
- Clarification on Section 19 Closure Powers should be incorporated in the Section 182 Guidance.
- There should be a discretion to impose an immediate effect on decisions at a review hearing.
- EMROs should be repealed.
- Greater scrutiny of the effects of the late night levy with possible repeal if the current proposed changes, yet to be enacted, do not work.
- Fees should be set locally, not nationally.
- Enforcement of penalties for sales of alcohol to a person who is drunk (Section 141) should be taken more seriously.
The Government is now charged with scrutinising the report of the Select Committee and could respond within two months of its publication. Once the Government has responded there will be a debate in the House of Lords, at which time the Committee Chair will comment on the Government’s response and this is likely to take place at a debate in October.
One would expect to see the trade bodies now coming out to lobby Government on anything in their response which they feel could have a negative effect on the sector.
The recommendations are significant and could lead to a wholesale change in the licensing system if adopted in significant part.
We will of course monitor the process of this through the Summer and into the Autumn and report.
The full report of the Select Committee can be found at: