ALE 297 in Spring 2000
reported on the Licensing White Paper for England and Wales,
produced to satisfy a 1997 election pledge.
There was a false start in late 2001
but nearly three years and one election on, the Bill has
at last appeared.
But what does it mean?
Here we shun headline-grabbing nonsense slogans like
"pubs will open 24-hours a day"
and look at what it really means.
And it's not all great news.
So there's plenty of controversy there.
What do you think?
The editor expects to have a very full
letters page next issue!
- One of the key aims is deregulation - removing archaic regulations.
These include abolishing "permitted hours", drinking-up time and controls on the presence of children.
- [+] There will potentially
be more flexibility for pubs and thus choice for consumers.
The Media's "24-hour drinking" slogan is of course a myth -
some town centre pubs may get an extra hour or so at weekends.
And it distracts from the real meat of the proposed legislation.
- [-] In reality, it introduces a hefty new set of regulations
(there are 196 clauses in the Bill as introduced in the House of Lords).
It could in fact make life more difficult for drinkers and licensees.
- [-] It introduces licensing for bars on boats.
- The Department of Culture, Media & Sport's
stated aim is to "mimimise public disorder".
- Presumably with the image of young drunken people on the streets around 11.30pm uppermost in minds.
- Some commentators have suggested that really it is aimed at "minimising public fun",
and represents another restriction on civil liberties.
- Another major aim is "protection for children"
(so it's not really about making life better for drinkers or licensees after all).
- From July 2004 there will be a new regime of licences issued by district council licensing committees,
with separate licences for the premises and the landlord.
- [+] Tidy-minded bureaucrats and politicians welcome this as simplifying licensing under one regime.
- [-] This replaces a process based on legal-grade facts presented in open court by trained judges
with one by part-time politicians subject to a wide variety of behind-the-scenes pressures and lobbying.
- [-] Applications to licensing committees are far more costly than to magistrates.
- [+] The current Public Entertainment Licence will be part of the new premises licence - a useful simplification.
- [-] However this aspect is controversial as some believe
that potentially even singing "Happy Birthday" without an appropriate premises licence could be a breach.
Will carol singers be allowed?
- [+] Hand-over between landlords will be far simpler.
- [-] It encourages "revolving-door" pub management, hindering the development of consistency and quality.
- Appeals against decisions of licensing committees will go to magistrates.
- Existing licences remain valid, if registered by January 2004.
- [+] There'll be no rush of applications, causing chaos and confusion.
- Licence applications will involve consideration of the public order impact of the
hours and other aspects (such as entertainment) asked for,
including the views of neighbours (people & businesses), the fire authority,
the health & safety authority (usually Trading Standards),
Environmental Health and the Police.
For boats, water & navigation authorities also are involved.
- [+] This should reassure residents worried about noise etc.
- [-] There could be malicious or unfounded objections to reasonable requests,
leading to costly appeals.
- [-] All the consultation is bound to increase overall costs.
- [-] Under the Human Rights Act courts have already ruled in favour of
both the "right to drink" and the "right to peaceful sleep", so lawyers are likely
to be the winners here.
- The premises licence may carry the condition that there be
a suitably-qualified door supervisor at specified times, licenced by the
Security Industry Authority.
- Cambridge University's ancient right to issue licences is repealed but the
and Middle Temple's rights are maintained -
due to powerful lobbying by their barristers?
ALE Winter 2002/2003 No. 308
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Cambridge & District CAMRA