Lords’ Licensing Act Review: what are the odds for change?

By Claire Churchard contact

- Last updated on GMT

Assessing change: what are the odds the Lords' Licensing Act proposals will happen?
Assessing change: what are the odds the Lords' Licensing Act proposals will happen?
It’s more than a month since The House of Lords select committee published proposals for a “major overhaul” of the 2003 Licensing Act. But how many of the Lords’ recommendations are likely to be implemented by the next Government?

Certain recommendations were pretty radical, such as merging committees that make licensing decisions with planning committees and introducing minimum unit pricing for alcohol. So how likely is it that they and the other recommendations will come into force?

Delegates at the latest MA500 meeting in Liverpool heard from legal expert Jonathan Smith, partner at law firm Poppleston Allen, about what we can expect to see.

Minimum Unit Pricing

The Lords’ recommended that the Government in Westminster should seriously consider introducing minimum unit pricing (MUP) to England and Wales. MUP would set the minimum amount that can be charged per unit of alcohol and would in theory prevent high alcohol content drinks being sold cheaply.

However, the recommendations also said that the Westminster Government should watch how Scotland implements MUP, something authorities north of the border have been trying to do since 2012 but have not yet achieved. The Lords said Westminster should assess how successful the Scot’s implementation has been before deciding whether to introduce MUP to England and Wales.

The Scottish Government appears keen to bring in MUP. It published evidence in 2016 to show that this policy would be “the most effective way to protect life and health in Scotland”.

Currently the only thing standing between Scotland and the MUP is an appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association, which will be heard in the Supreme Court in July.

A poll of the MA500 audience, which included operators from across the UK, was 72% in favour of MUP. If introduced it is more likely to disadvantage the off-trade as most of the drinks sold in pubs already cost more than the suggested 50p-per-unit minimum for Scotland.

Probability MUP will be added to the Licensing Act 50% 

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The Licensing Process

Merging licensing and planning committees

Another big change recommended by the Lords’ was to merge local authority licensing committees and their sub-committees into planning committees. The move would prevent situations where planning permission has been secured for a licensed premises but a subsequent request for an alcohol licence is rejected. It would mean planning committee members would need training to make decision on granting licenses.

However, Smith pointed out that the Institute of Licensing and the Local Government Association (LGA) were both against the proposal. He said: “Because of the LGA’s reaction, this is very unlikely to come in.”

Probability the committees will be merged 10%

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Councillor training standards

The Lords called for councillors appointed to the licensing committee to receive a minimum level of  training, as set out in the Licensing Act Guidance, before they can take part in any committee proceedings.

Probability 75% 

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End advertising in local press

Under the 2003 Act, notice of a licensing application must be advertised in the local paper. The Lords’ would like to see this practice end.

Probability 25% 

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Appeals

Currently licensing authority appeals go to the magistrate’s court. But the Lords’ would like to see them go to the planning inspectorate instead.

Probability this change will happen 20% 

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Temporary Event Notices

The Lords’ recommended that licensing authorities should be given the power to object to Temporary Event Notices (TEN), alongside the police and environmental health officers. It also suggested implementing a system for notifying local councillors and residents of TENs in a timely manner.

Probability it will happen 20% 

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Night Time Economy

Early Morning Restriction Orders

No Early Morning Restriction Orders (EMROs) have been introduced, which the Lords said was “appropriate”. Therefore, provisions for EMROs in the Act should be repealed, they said.

Probability EMROs will be repealed 70% 

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Late Night Levy

The Lords’ said that the evidence they’d seen showed that the Late Night Levy (LNL) had failed to achieve its objectives, which include using the money raised by the levy to fund extra law enforcement between midnight and 6am. In light of its “failure”, the Lords’ said the LNL should be abolished. But the review also recognised that the Government’s amendments “may stand some chance of successfully reforming the levy”.

If the Government does decide to retain the levy, the Lords’ recommended splitting the revenue generated equally between the police and local authorities, rather than maintaining the existing 70:30 split.

Probability the levy will be abolished 20% 

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Live music

Adopt a full ‘Agent of Change’ principle in planning and licensing guidance to help protect both licensed premises and local residents from consequences (IE noise and disruption) arising from any new build development (IE pubs and bars) in their nearby vicinity.

Probability a full Agent of Change will be adopted 50% 

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Airports/ports

Revoke the designation of airports as international airports, so that the Licensing Act applies fully airside at airports, as it does in other parts of airports.

Smith said this is an easy win, so it likely to happen.

Probability 90%

Next Steps

None of the recommendations will be implemented until the new Government has had the chance to consider and respond to the Lords’ recommendations.

There is a time limit of two months for the Government to respond but the snap general election means that no real responses are likely until at least the end of July 2017.  Unless, of course, the outcome of the election brings a change from Prime Minister May to PM Corbyn, Smith said.

Related topics: Licensing law

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