So, who is responsible now?

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Related tags: Licensing laws, Debut albums

Not for the first time, I am a little confused about the theory and practice of the new licensing laws. This concerns the holding of the premises...

Not for the first time, I am a little confused about the theory and practice of the new licensing laws.

This concerns the holding of the premises licence. If, as has been suggested, the named holder of the licence is not responsible for offences under the licensing laws on a

day-to-day basis, what is the purpose of having a specific licence-holder in the first place?

The original idea, as I remember, was to have the premises licence akin to planning permission: this was what would be allowed on those premises, and you could apply to change that permission, but there would be no need for transfer on sale or lease of the property and certainly no individual or company who would be seen as responsible for what took place there. That responsibility rested with the person who was operating the business.

This seemed a logical idea. But now not only do we have a premises licence holder, but we have a Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) and a personal licence holder who effectively gives authority for each and every sale. Sometimes these are the same person and sometimes they are not.

There has even been some challenge recently in Licensing Review to the actual legal role of the DPS in relation to the licensing laws. I share the doubts as to what specific act or omission relates exclusively to the DPS - every offence provision can be laid at the door of someone else as well.

Those who believe that this was carefully-planned legislation cannot see the wood for the trees. It will work, like lots of things in Britain in spite of, not because of, the legislation, because we are good at that. But sooner or later this sort of question will begin to be asked, especially when rogue pubcos walk away from obligations, as has happened so dramatically during last year.

I am still of the opinion that the original idea of a planning-style licence was a good one. Who pays for it can easily be worked out, and the responsibility for the actual operation of the premises can be clearly identified. It does not need named individuals or companies to create a workable and accountable system.

The alternative, to pursue holding companies, works in food hygiene matters but is not so appropriate for a licensing system where offences are committed 'on the spot'. Another opportunity for licensing reform, methinks.

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