Jowell talks up licensing reform at ALMR conference

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Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has given the strongest indication yet that licensing reform will be taken forward in this year's Queen's...

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has given the strongest indication yet that licensing reform will be taken forward in this year's Queen's Speech.

Speaking at the 10th anniversary conference of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) yesterday (April 25), Ms Jowell also sought to reassure the trade that its views would not be ignored when it comes to drafting the bill.

She said: "I am determined that we deliver on our promises and bring forward our new proposals to modernise our licensing laws as soon as possible.

"Pubs are at the heart of our communities, both in town and country. They bring a great deal of enjoyment and social contact for people of all ages.

"They are also vital for the generation of new employment opportunities that breathe life into communities. Sales of alcohol of around £30 billion each year generate duty and VAT that buys our country's schools, roads, hospitals and puts policemen on our streets.

"But our licensing laws speak for another decade, not our own."

She added that any bill would also protect the rights of residents.

Her speech was generally well-received by the trade, although there is still some concern that the trade's wishes may have been watered down in the detail of the bill. And with the Queen's Speech expected in November, there are only six months left in which changes can be made.

Philip Thorley, operations director of the 40-strong Thorley Taverns, said: "I was encouraged by some of the things she said but unfortunately she didn't tell us anything we didn't already know - ultimately, I thought it was just another politician telling us that licensing reform was on the way. I think we'll all have to wait and see what happens."

The promised changes to the current licensing laws include:

  • flexible opening hours with the potential for up to 24 hour opening, seven days a week, subject to consideration of the impact on local residents
  • a new system of personal licences which allow holders to sell or serve alcohol for consumption on or off any premises, issued for 10 years
  • licensing controlled by local authorities, not magistrates
  • children's certificates abolished and children allowed access to any part of licensed premises at the personal licence holder's discretion.

Related topics Licensing law

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