Mike Berry: Personal licences renewal process has been a mess

By Mike Berry

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Home office License House of lords

Mike Berry
Mike Berry
We first flagged up potential problems with personal licence renewals back in the summer.

Some four months later and as the end of the year approaches, it’s only now that we’ve received some clarity on the renewal process.

But — somewhat frustratingly — it’s not the whole picture (see p1). The proposal to remove the need to renew personal licences is included in the Deregulation Bill which is still waiting to become law.

The first personal licences were granted in February 2005; however, the bill is unlikely to receive Royal Assent before they hit their 10-year expiry date. Holders are required to submit a valid renewal application up to three months before, but no less than a month before, the expiry date.

This means some holders who were issued with licences in February 2005 will be required to apply for a renewal early in the new year. To ensure that personal licence holders are not disadvantaged by this position, the Government has put in place transitional arrangements for those whose licences are due for renewal before the Bill comes into force.

It is altering the application form for renewals so that holders are required to provide only essential information to the licensing authority. No fee is payable, and there is no need to supply a photograph or criminal record certificate. However — and here’s the frustrating bit — that application form still isn’t available.

Because of the vagaries of the legislative process, the Home Office is unable to publish it, and can only say it will be available in “due course”, as soon as secondary legislation has been approved by Parliament. The Home Office has been aware of this situation for some time but has been slow to act.

It was only last month, at an Institute of Licensing event, that an official updated the trade on what the new procedures would entail — and even then some of the details provided have subsequently proved to be incorrect.

She stated that there would be no need for holders to submit their existing licence, and that local authorities must acknowledge receipt of the form for it to be valid. That’s not the case. We, of course, welcome the Home Office’s intentions behind the decision to scrap the burdensome renewal process.

Any Government that makes serious moves to cut red tape for small businesses like pubs — rather than just talking about it and then doing the opposite — should be applauded. But its goal seems to have been hamstrung by a longwinded and (all too often) painful Parliamentary process that has seen the bill languishing in the House of Lords since mid-June.

Dare we ask what the Lordships have been up to for the past five months? Surely they could have roused themselves and found the necessary impetus to get this bill through Parliament far quicker than it has? This has been a far from perfect process; in fact, it’s been a mess.

Hopefully, honest licensees won’t be tripped up or unduly penalised because of the delays. Meanwhile, the trade is still awaiting a Home Office response to its consultation on licensing fees, which closed in April and proposed some eye-watering increases to the day-to-day fees pubs pay.

Stand by for another battle.

Related topics Licensing law

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