ALMR attacks government for reform plans delay

Related tags Licensing reform License

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has launched a blistering attack on the government for the continued delay in reforming...

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has launched a blistering attack on the government for the continued delay in reforming outdated licensing laws.

In a letter to licensing minister Kim Howells (pictured)​, the ALMR said the government had planned reform in an "unsatisfactory" way, and had failed to take account of the trade's concerns. It added that progress on reform was "disappointingly slow".

The ALMR also criticised several issues raised by the government in its proposals for licensing reform. Chief executive Nick Bish wrote: "Members are universally concerned that their expectations of licensing reform are not being realised."

The ALMR said the introduction of the Criminal Justice and Police Act at the end of last year gave the trade new responsibilities without giving them the opportunity to increase business that extended hours would bring.

It also reiterated its disappointment in the government's desire to transfer licensing control to local authorities.

"We said in 2000 and maintain now that local authorities, as presently constructed and operating, are not qualified or equipped to control licensing," said Mr Bish.

Local authorities could put residents' wishes above those of local businesses, according to the ALMR.

Mr Bish added that while licensing was well conducted by magistrates benches, helped by the publication of the Good Practice Guide in 1999, he had heard of several examples of "inefficiency, inconsistency and unfairness" by local authorities.

Keith Knowles, managing director of Interpub, added his support to the ALMR's letter.

He said he had practical experience of councils unfairly imposing controls through planning restrictions.

"Our outlet in Shepherds Bush Green, London, has a restriction on its planning permission that we can't use the bar after midnight," he said. "We can't apply for an extension to our licence until we get that changed.

"All we want is balance. We run an outlet in Edinburgh and noise, late night opening and so on is not even an issue, we have no restrictions.

"If licensing reform goes through like this, I can see us spending all our time in magistrates courts at appeal."

It is hoped that licensing reform will feature in the Queen's Speech in November, but the ALMR wants the government to reassess its proposals before then.

Colin Mayes, chairman of the ALMR, said: "The government should not underestimate the strength of feeling that exists among owners and operators. We are not part of the problem, we are part of the solution and we will do what is necessary to demonstrate this."

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "We were disappointed the bill was not in the Queen's Speech and look forward to it being in the next one. The publication of the bill will mark another stage of the consultation process. There's still plenty of time for debate."

Related topics Legislation

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