Standing Committee on the Licensing Bill starts talks

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by David Clifton of thePublican.com's legal team of experts from London solicitors Joelson Wilson.Time will tell whether April Fool's Day was an...

by David Clifton of thePublican.com's legal team of experts from London solicitors Joelson Wilson.

Time will tell whether April Fool's Day was an appropriate date for the first meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Licensing Bill.

However, they are now meeting regularly until May 20, by which time we will know exactly what shape we can expect the new legislation to be.

Questions for the Standing Committee

The issues of live music in pubs, designated premises supervisors and protection of owner's interests have dominated many discussions in recent weeks. But I have a few other questions that I would like the Standing Committee to deal with.

By the time you read this, of course, they may well have done so.

These are some of my questions:

  • What's happening about the suggestion that provisional statements (the new equivalent of existing provisional licences) should have a life of three years, instead of the original government suggestion that last minute objections could be raised following completion of works of construction?

Exactly how long is the transitional period going to be? I have heard informed sources say 12 months, 16 months and even as long as 33 months.

Are existing provisional licences automatically going to be converted into provisional statements or will specific application for conversion into provisional statements have to be made?

What will be the status of licences granted or varied by licensing justices or entertainment licensing committees during the second part of the transitional period after the time to apply for conversion has elapsed?

Will it be necessary for completely fresh applications to be made to the new licensing authority on the Act coming into effect? What will happen in the meantime?

Will every single proposed change to the layout of licensed premises, however large or small and regardless of whether it would previously have required Section 20 consent to alterations, require a full application for variation of the premises licence (with consequential possibility of objections)?How much exactly are the fees going to be?

So, Messrs Gale, Benton and friends, answers on a postcard please to me c/o The Publican!

Members of the committee

These are the MPs on the committee and the people to whom you should speak if you want to influence the decision-making process for the Licensing Bill. Remember - this is likely to be the law that will govern the licensing aspects of your industry for the remainder of your working lives. But hurry as there is very little time left.

  • Roger Gale: (Thanet North)
    Joe Benton: (Bootle) Bob Blizzard: (Waveney) David Crausby: (Bolton, North East) Mark Field: (Cities of London and Westminster) Jane Griffiths: (Reading, East) John Grogan: (Selby) Nick Harvey: (North Devon) Mark Hoban: (Fareham) Dr Kim Howells: (Pontypridd - minister for licensing) Kevan Jones: (North Durham) Fraser Kemp: (Houghton and Washington, East) Jim Knight: (South Dorset) Martin Linton: (Battersea) Malcolm Moss: (North East Cambridgeshire) Adrian Sanders: (Torbay) Graham Stringer: (Manchester, Blackley) Andrew Turner: (Isle of Wight)

If you want to follow progress of the committee's debates, you can get hold of the transcripts by clicking here.

Prescott fights for residents' rights

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, is not a member of the Standing Committee. However, that has not stopped his office from getting in on the act as swiftly as two Jaguars racing down the M4 fast lane.

Last month saw the publication of its report entitled The Licensing Bill and the Evening Economy. It's one in the eye for the industry (or at least certain parts of the industry), but I suspect that it will have been seized upon with glee by the growing number of residents' associations showing a keen interest in local licensing issues.

The report bemoans the fact that, under the new law, licensing authorities will not be able to set an upper limit on the number of licences to be granted in a particular area or to set a terminal hour for premises in a defined local area.

It concludes that the Licensing Bill does not make any improvements to residents' rights to object to licensing applications, but instead reduces their opportunities for input.

Accordingly the report recommends that licensing authorities:

  • are empowered to accept residents' sworn evidence of nuisance in licensing cases
  • are given power to set an overall terminal hour in particular local areas
  • are required to define upper capacity limits assessed by reference to the number of people a particular geographical area can reasonably cope with.

Related topics: Licensing law

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