Industry unites against personal licence abolition plan

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Personal licences, Personal licence, License

The trade has said the Government's proposals would lead to inconsistency and undermine the professionalism of the industry
The trade has said the Government's proposals would lead to inconsistency and undermine the professionalism of the industry
Industry groups, including the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), have lobbied the Government to retain personal licences in a joint letter to crime prevention minister Norman Baker.

The organisations have said the Government’s proposal to abolish personal licences and replace the national system with the option for local authorities to impose training conditions on individual licences would lead to inconsistency and prove challenging for companies working across different councils. They said there is also a risk of increased reviews of licences to impose training conditions, which will lead to extra costs to businesses.

In the letter, which has been signed by a range of associations across the leisure, hospitality and tourism industries, the group said it supports the coherent and qualification-based system behind personal licences as well as the practical benefits of the criminal check system.

The status of the personal licence holder, in terms of both position and recognition of personal investment in training, is also highlighted, with the group warning against the “gold-plating” of the designated premises supervisor.

'Undermining'

BII chief executive Tim Hulme said: "Whilst the BII welcome attempts to reduce red-tape, the proposals in the consultation further undermine the professionalism of our industry at a time when we firmly believe society should be demanding us to promote even higher standards and to plot a pathway to better compliance and greater standards of regulation."

'Nationally recognised'

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds added: “Government intentions to deregulate are very much welcomed. However, the potential for increased regulation at a local level removes any gains.

“Personal licences work well, set a national standard which is supported by local authorities and the police and have many benefits for the industry. There are many other reductions in red tape which the industry has proposed, but not this one. Personal licences are important for the reputation of the industry and should stay as a nationally recognised qualification.”

'Retrograde step'

ALMR strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said removing the personal licence system would be “a retrograde step” and “a recipe for additional red tape and bureaucracy at a local level”, with councils setting their own requirements for training for different types of businesses.

The Institute of Licensing - which represents c2,500 professionals invovled in licensing from the industry, councils, police and the legal profession - has also raised objections to the proposals.

The letter to the minister in full

Dear Minister,

Personal Alcohol Licences, Enabling Targeted Local Alternatives

The signatories: the undersigned comprise all the major licensed retail and hospitality sector trade and professional bodies. Between us we represent all major supermarket, pub and night club chains, as well as 200,000 independent hospitality businesses and retailers. We are writing in response to the Government’s consultation on the abolition of personal licences. Whilst we welcome the Government’s Red Tape Challenge, we are nevertheless united in our opposition to the abolition of personal licences.

The current system provides a coherent, qualification-based licensing system that lays down a national, minimum standard of training and vetting that applies to all licensed premises. Since 2005 over 575,000 people have gained the personal licence qualification. It is both a pre-requisite for a personal licence application and a Technical Certificate in the licensed retail apprenticeship. This level of training in licensing law has never before been achieved in the sector. Additional training should build on this, not be an alternative to it. The criminality check also ensures that those with an unacceptable criminal record are excluded from authorising alcohol sales. The current levels of training and vetting are key factors in supporting the licensing objectives.

Targeted training: where licensing authorities deem it necessary to target additional training or criminality checks, they have the power to do so at present on application or review. It should also be noted that changes to legislation introduced by this government make it possible for a premises licence review to be initiated by the local licensing authority itself.

Whilst we are pleased that the government’s proposed changes retain the content of training and the criteria for criminality checks as national benchmarks, our members are concerned that if the application of these national training and vetting criteria are subject to the discretion of local licensing authorities, through decisions on the types of premises or categories of staff who need training or vetting, then a consistent national approach will be replaced by a patchwork quilt of over 400 local policies. Our multiple-site members are further concerned that keeping track of premises where licensing authorities have imposed a training condition will be hugely difficult, and once imposed a training condition will remain in perpetuity unless removed at a subsequent review, even if the type and operation of the premises changes. This will significantly add to the burden of complexity and cost, not reduce it.

Levels of supervision: our experience is that most licensed premises go beyond the minimum legal requirement and employ more than one personal licence holder. We estimate that across the sector between a fifth and a third of staff in customer-facing positions hold personal licences. This ensures that where the DPS is absent, a shift manager who has been trained, vetted and licensed is present to supervise. If only the DPS can authorise alcohol sales, as proposed, then either the DPS will have to be present at all times alcohol is sold, or sales will have to be authorised in absentia.

The personal licence: gaining a personal licence confers authority on the holder. It symbolises that the holder has been trained and vetted and is a fit and proper person to authorise other members of staff to sell alcohol. One of the key faults of the licensing system under the 1964 Act was the inconsistency and cost that arose from having over 400 local licensing justices’ policies. The current system was constructed precisely in order to create coherence and consistency across local boundaries. The abolition of the personal licence, and its replacement with a ‘gold-plated’ DPS, is a retrograde step.

Given the real concerns of so many industry representatives, we very much hope that you will agree to meet with us before any final decision is made. 

Yours faithfully

(Signatory bodies are BBPA, BII, ALMR, Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Association of Convenience Stores, British Hospitality Association, Federation of Licensed Victuallers Association, British Holiday & Home Parks Association, Business in Sport and Leisure, The Bingo Association, CPL Training Group, Meetings Industry Association, Holiday Centres Association)

Related topics: Licensing law

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