Trade backed in supervision' row

Related tags Personal licence holder License Dcms

by Ewan Turney Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) licensing chief Andrew Cunningham has waded into the row raging between local...

by Ewan Turney

Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) licensing chief Andrew Cunningham has waded into the row raging between local authorities and licenseesby categorically stating that a personal licence holder does not have to be present every time alcohol is sold.

Licensees in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, North Norfolk and Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, have been among those outraged by their councils' insistence that every sale be directly authorised by a personal licence holder.

However, in a letter to off-trade body the Association of Con-venience Stores ­ equally relevant to the on-trade ­ Cunningham said: "We do not consider that authorisation' implies direct supervision of each sale of alcohol by a personal licence holder."

He added that authorisation must be "meaningful and properly carried out and not simply an abdication of responsibility". In the view of the DCMS, for "real authorisation" to be given, licensees should clearly identify the person authorised to sell alcohol, specify which acts can be carried out, issue an oral or written statement of authorisation and regularly monitor the authorised person.

It is the second time that the DCMS has had to step in to clarify the act during the transition phase; Licensing minister Richard Caborn had to intervene over the grandfather rights issue.

As with Caborn, Cunningham was at pains to point out that as the Licensing Act 2003 had devolved power to local authorities, he could not instruct them to interpret guidance one way or another. But the letter represents the clearest possible indication that some local authorities have interpreted the act incorrectly.

Morning Advertiser legal expert Peter Coulson said: "It is an issue that needed to be clarified. The DCMS is undertaking a tremendous amount of damage limitation. They don't like having to explain the law. Part of the problem is there are so many unanswered questions; I don't think this is the last time the DCMS will have to intervene."

However, some licensees remain sceptical that councils will change their stance. David Watts, licensee at the King's Head in Letheringsett, Norfolk, said: "I will remain very cagey until I see it in black and white: North Norfolk council seem to be a law unto themselves."

Authorisation: the DCMS view

The DCMS gives the following advice on what it considers to be "real authorisation":

The person(s) authorised to sell alcohol should be clearly identified.

The authorisation should have specified the acts that may be carried out by the person being authorised.

There should be an overt act of authorisation, for example, a specific oral or written statement given to the individual being authorised.

There should be in place sensible arrangements for monitoring by the personal licence holder of the activity authorised by him or her on a reasonably regular basis.

Related topics Legislation

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