The Government said the Deregulation Bill, which will remove the requirement to renew personal licences, will receive Royal Assent no earlier than Spring 2015.
Speaking at the Institute of Licensing National Training Event today, Home Office official Anna Dawson said affected licensees, which it is thought total half a million, will need to submit a short form providing basic information to their local authority. There will be no application fee and no need to supply photographs, criminal record or the existing personal licence.
However, she added that the local authority must acknowledge receipt of the application for it to be valid.
The Publican’s Morning Advertiser understands that the Home Office will provide the application form, which it is thought will be amended by secondary legislation, and publish guidance on the revised process “very shortly”.
The form will still need to be lodged no more than three months’ and no less than one month before the licence expiry date.
The Government decided to abolish the need to renew personal licences earlier this year in order to cut red tape.
Poppleston Allen partner Jonathan Smith said the Home Office must make the documents available before the 7 January, as the first licences due for renewal could fall on 7 February.
He said he welcomed the simplified process but is concerned about the lack of detail regarding how licensing authorities must acknowledge the forms.
“If the council don’t like somebody or don’t like their venue and do not acknowledge receipt, that would mean their personal licence lapses.
“I’m sure no licensing authority would be as churlish, but what the spokeswoman from the Home Office couldn’t say is what they mean by ‘acknowledging’ the receipt. Is it a phone call? Does it have to be in writing? What if it’s an electronic application? It seems a little harsh on the licensing authorities. I can’t see why proof of submitting the form won’t suffice.”
British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds welcomed the move.
"Personal licences work very well, are popular within the industry and set a national standard which is supported by both local authorities and the police. However, we do support the abolition of the burdensome renewal process, which quite rightly the Government is planning to remove as part of the Deregulation Bill.
"It is therefore vital that there is a process in place to ensure that licences due for renewal do not lapse before this new legislation takes effect. We are very pleased that the Home Office has come up with a solution. I look forward to seeing the formal proposals on how this will be undertaken.”
The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers urged the Government to ensure there are no additional delays and no further burdens for the trade
ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The key point is that the Deregulation Bill is supposed to cut administrative burdens for licensees, not increase them with additional forms. There has been unanimous agreement between the trade, licensing officials and enforcement that renewal dates should be disregarded. Neither licensees nor local authorities wish to waste time processing further applications. This could easily be solved by commitment from the Government that no renewal is necessary pending adoption of Bill.
“This Government needs to ensure that this is implemented next spring with no delays. Half of all personal licences are due for renewal in the next financial year and further stoppages could cost the sector a huge amount of time and money. We are pleased to see the Government has taken the decision to scrap the renewal fee. This will save the sector millions of pounds which can be invested productively.”