Government gives licensing powers to the people

By Matt Eley Matt

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Red tape, Police, Brigid simmonds

Major changes to licensing laws started their passage through Parliament today with the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill being laid. The...

Major changes to licensing laws started their passage through Parliament today with the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill being laid.

The Bill, unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May, includes a range of measures designed to give local communities a greater say on licensing issues.

Plans include allowing authorities to impose taxes on late opening venues and doubling fines for venues that persistently sell to the underage to £20,000.

One change to the plans following a consultation in the summer includes the removal of proposals to change the appeals process for licensing hearings.

This was welcomed by British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds.

She said: "The government has listened when it comes to removing the right of appeal, and the three-yearly review of licensing policies is to be extended to five years."

However she added that overall the measures "are designed to tackle a small minority of premises in the on-trade, when the government could achieve more by ensuring that the huge range of existing laws are used sensibly".

Simmonds went on to say that the plans will increase red tape and could cause more pubs to close.

"We understand the government's wish to give local councils a greater role in the licensing process - but several of the proposals would increase the red tape that has been so damaging to Britain's pubs in recent years," she said.

"The government acknowledges that the majority of licensed premises are well-run. This should be reflected in action taken by local licensing authorities, but our fear is that the unintended consequences of these changes will close more pubs."

The Bill will also allow anyone to comment on a licensing application, no matter where they live in relation to a premises. Greater weight will also be given to health and policing concerns.

The government is also committed to banning alcohol disorder zones and reviewing the alcohol mandatory code within 12 months of its introduction.

Licensing authorities will also have the power to refuse applications without relevant representations from an authority.

Commenting on the wide-ranging Bill, May said: "For too long, the fight against crime has been tangled up in a web of centrally imposed red tape that has driven a wedge between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve."

Related topics: Legislation

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