New government brings promise of positive change for licensed hospitality

By Kate Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

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Kate Nicholls: "We are fortunate indeed that many of the strongest pro-pub politicians of the last Parliament have returned"
Kate Nicholls: "We are fortunate indeed that many of the strongest pro-pub politicians of the last Parliament have returned"
A week before the General Election I was chatting with Alastair Campbell about the campaign just before he spoke at the ALMR Conference. He was horrified at my likening the Tories to Chelsea’s recent form – dull and workmanlike but ruthless in closing down any opponent’s chances – because he held Chelsea to be great example of winning.

And so it has proved.

The campaign itself may have been more beige than blue, but 'reluctant' or 'shy', the British public north and south of the border voted for continuity, certainty and a positive identity.

For business too, certainty and stability resonates. A decisive outcome is far, far better for business than a messy coalition or a narrow victory – irrespective of what colour your personal politics. The Prime Minister’s ‘business as usual’ approach in the immediate aftermath of the election result was reassuring to the markets and that is important not just for big business, but SMEs, our employees and customers alike.


The era of coalition politics bred unpredictability with deals being done behind closed doors, Ministers having to square off coalition partners and compromise at all levels. It resulted in delay and unpredictability: particularly acute where Lib Dem Ministers held the brief and we saw the impact this had – both good and bad depending on your perspective - on policies as diverse as World Cup licensing hours, licensing fees and, most notably, pubco reform.

The return of a Conservative administration will see positive change - pledges of a once in a generation reform of business rates, a freeze on licensing fees​ and a continuation of the positive direction of travel on employment controls and jobs taxes can be delivered. Endorsement of business-led collaborations on the High Street Forum – in terms of planning policy, BIDs and levies is assured.


Many in the sector will be relieved that Labour’s plans for regulation to set mandatory levels of salt, sugar and fat in food, bans on alcohol advertising and product control at a retail level as well as the introduction of health as a licensing objective have not come to pass. But there will be a need to remain active in voluntary initiatives like the Responsibility Deal.

This is one policy area where the SNP as the third largest party could have a significant impact on Westminster politics – and where the Government’s majority is weakest. The Scottish experience of licensing and public health both very different and where they can expect to take a lead.


We have to remain alert to the dangers of Government’s with small majorities unable to get major reforms through the House of Commons looking for quick, cheap headlines. We have been used and abused as a result in the past and we must ensure we are on the front foot by engaging proactively in these debates.

We are fortunate indeed that many of the strongest pro-pub politicians of the last Parliament have returned​ and that we can build on our relationships with them. We also have a fresh new intake to introduce to our dynamic, vibrant and vital sector to build the champions of the future.

Perhaps, like the Champion’s League, Westminster politics may just have got a bit more exciting.

Kate Nicholls is chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers

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