Select Committee on Regulatory Reform First Report



APPENDICES

 

 

 

 

CORRESPONDENCE CONCERNING THE PROPOSAL

 

 

A.  Letter from the Clerk of the Committee to the Department for Culture,

Media and Sport   33

 

B.  Reply from the Department   34

 

C.  Further reply from the Department   35

Appendix A

Letter from the Clerk of the Committee to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport

 

Proposal for the Regulatory Reform (Special Occasions Licensing) Order 2002

 

I write following the Committee's consideration of the above regulatory reform proposal at its meeting earlier today.

You will be pleased to learn that the Committee has no concerns to raise at this stage regarding the substance of the proposal. Regrettably, however, it finds itself once again having to consider issues of timing.

As you know, under the Regulatory Reform Act, no draft of an Order giving effect to this proposal can be laid until 60 days after the proposal itself was laid before Parliament, subject to extension for dissolution, prorogation and adjournment for more than four days. The Committee's understanding is that a draft of the Order could not, therefore, be laid before Parliament before Tuesday 17th December.

Parliament is likely to rise for Christmas later that week, perhaps on Thursday 19th December. If the order is to become law before New Year's Eve this year, only three days would be available for both Parliamentary Committees to consider and report on the draft Order, and for both Houses to approve it.

Furthermore, even if this is possible, the Order would be unlikely to become law until Friday 20th December. This being the case, only around 10 days would remain for restriction order applications to be made and heard - of which 4 would be weekends and 2 bank holidays.

The Committee therefore requests a response to the following questions:

(a)  firstly, does the Department consider that there is time for the Order to be approved by both Houses before Parliament rises for Christmas?

(b)  secondly, if it considers that there is time, does it believe that there will be time for the system of restriction orders to operate as intended?

The Committee also requests the Department's views on the likely effect on the licensed trade of a failure to introduce this Order in time for New Year's Eve 2002.

It will be apparent from the above that it seems clear to the Committee that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to ensure that this proposed order becomes law in time for New Year's Eve this year. The Committee has therefore indicated that, should the Minister wish to proceed with the proposal and attempt to bring it into force this year, they will expect him to come before them to explain how he proposes to do so.

Obviously this matter is now pressing, and the Committee is keen to take matters forward as quickly as possible, so that those who will be affected by the passage, or otherwise, of the order will have some certainty about the arrangements for this year's New Year's Eve. I would be grateful therefore to receive a response by Thursday this week, so that it can be circulated for consideration by the Committee at its meeting next Tuesday.

 

22 October 2002

Appendix B

Reply from the Department

Proposal for the Regulatory Reform (Special Occasions Licensing) Order 2002

I am sorry that I have not replied until now to your letter of 22 October on behalf of the House of Commons Deregulation and Regulatory Reform Committee requesting comments on the Committee's concerns about the timing of the draft Order. It was necessary to consult both Dr Howells and the Secretary of State about the Committee's views and my comments below reflect theirs.

We are grateful that the Committee has no issues of substance to raise in respect of the draft Order and note that the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee adopted a similar position in their report of 16 October.

It may be helpful if I mention firstly the constraints which affected the laying of this draft Order. As you know, the Government had given repeated undertakings to both Select Committees that New Year's Eve 2001 would be treated as a trial and that no decision would be taken on whether to proceed with a proposal to relax licensing hours permanently at all future New Years' Eves until 2001 had been thoroughly reviewed. The Department accordingly wrote to more than 800 public bodies (police forces, local authorities and courts) and some residents' associations for their views after New Year's Eve 2001. The comments of respondents were thoroughly analysed and reviewed before a public consultation document on a further proposal could be prepared for Ministerial consideration. As you will also be aware, the review led to changes (compared with arrangements at previous New Year's Eves) in the proposal described in the public consultation document, which had to be approved by the Government generally, including the issue affecting Sundays. This meant that we were not in a position to publish the consultation document until later than in previous years, and although we reduced the normal period for consultation, it was inevitable that the statutory timetable would be difficult.

By way of background, I also need to stress that the draft Order does not only affect New Year's Eve 2002, but also all future New Years' Eves. My Ministers hope that the forthcoming Queen's Speech will include a licensing reform Bill. However, even if a such a Bill is presented in the next Parliamentary Session and was to receive Royal Assent by the end of July, a period of transition is expected to follow of at least a year, during which permitted licensing hours would continue to have effect. Accordingly, if approved by Parliament, the draft Order being scrutinized by the Committee would impact on New Year's Eve 2003, even if the Bill then rendered it unnecessary in subsequent years after 2003.

We agree with your assessment of the timetable and the earliest date (20 December) on which it would be possible to bring the Order into force if it was approved by Parliament. We also realize that this would rely on the co-operation of the Committees in respect of the second stage scrutiny of the draft Order. However, we hope that this remains feasible, given that the Select Committees of both Houses have indicated that they currently have no issues of substance to raise about it.

As you indicated, if the Order could be brought into force on 20 December, applicants for restriction orders would need to give five days notice to the courts. This would mean that applications could only be heard on 27th and 30th December. The draft Order provides that the magistrates' courts would be free to hear any application without regard to the existence of a licensing session. Two key questions therefore arise. The first is whether sufficient publicity could be given to restriction order matters prior to the coming into force of the Order, so that applicants would be ready to take the necessary action on 20 December. The second is whether two days is long enough to process any applications so made. We believe that it would be possible to publicise the necessity to apply on 20 December using the strategy adopted last year. With regard the courts' capacity, we estimated in the Regulatory Impact Assessment accompanying the draft Order that no more than ten applications for restriction orders would be sought. This was based on the experience of Millennium Eve, New Year's Eve 2001 and the Golden Jubilee period. We consider that even if the applications all fell in just two of the court areas out of more than three hundred, it would be possible to process them.

Ministers still consider it desirable to produce this Order in time for New Year's Eve 2002 if at all possible. However, we recognize that the latest any restriction order could be made would be 30th December which would be extremely difficult for the handful of premises that might be affected by restriction orders extremely late. Any appeal would also be ineffective in these circumstances. Notwithstanding this, Ministers consider that the wider benefits to consumers and the industry generally make it worthwhile pressing on.

There is no doubt that in respect of New Year's Eve 2002, the savings that the licensed trade could be expected to obtain would be reduced because many premises would choose not to trust that the Order would be forthcoming. They would seek special orders of exemption. The difference that the Order would make would be to guarantee longer hours than they could traditionally expect to be granted under a special order of exemption in most areas. Savings in full should accrue in 2003.

I understand that you are already in contact with Dr Howells' Private Office about possible dates for an appearance before the Committee so that he may be questioned about the points you raise.

ANDREW CUNNINGHAM

Head of Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Policy

 

30 October 2002

 

 

 

 

Appendix C

Further reply from the Department

Proposal for the Regulatory Reform (Special Occasions Licensing) Order 2002

When Dr Howells appeared before the Committee on 6 November, he undertook to advise the members about the strategy we intended to use to publicise the possibly late coming into force of the Regulatory Reform (Special Occasions Licensing) Order 2002.

Dr Howells agreed with the Committee that to be able to being the draft Order into force by 20 December:

_  there would have to be no significant issues of substance emerging from the first stage of Parliamentary scrutiny;

_  the Department would need to allow the officials of both the House of Commons' and House of Lords' Select Committees to have copies of the draft Explanatory Statement and draft Order well in advance of the second stage for early consideration;

_  the House of Lords' Select Committee, as well as the House of Commons Select Committee, would have to agree to report immediately at the commencement of the second period (15 days) of Parliamentary scrutiny;

_  the House business managers would need to ensure that a slot could be found in final week (pre-Christmas recess) for each House to consider the Order; and

_  of course, each House would have to approve the Order.

I am today writing separately to Tom Mohan to discover if the House of Lords' Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform would be willing and able to co-operate by acting immediately at the beginning of the second stage of Parliamentary scrutiny. If they are able to agree, we would undertake to provide you with the draft Explanatory Statement and draft Order two weeks before the first day on which the Committees could consider it under the terms of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 (ie Monday 2 December). We would obviously update the Explanatory Statement if the Committee's first stage report was made subsequently and included points which needed to be addressed.

Because of the Licensing Bill, we are in weekly contact with the Local Government Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Magistrates' Association, Justices' Clerks' Society and all the main trade associations representing the licensed trade and will continue to keep them closely informed of developments so that they can advise their members about timing and restriction orders.

However, we have considered carefully the Committee's concern that we should do all that we can to ensure that local residents are aware of their rights to seek restriction orders and of the importance of making such applications immediately on the coming into force of the Order if it is approved by Parliament. This obviously implies advance notice well before the coming into force of the Order.

We therefore propose implementing the following strategy at the beginning of December when local residents can be expected to start thinking about Christmas and the New Year:

A press notice to be issued at the beginning of December alerting people to the possibility of an Order being made by 20 December, and including the information attached to this letter.

The press notice to be regionalised by the Central Office of Information press offices ensuring that it is picked up by local area news media.

The press notice to appear on the DCMS website and UK online.

The notice to be repeated (with any updates) immediately after the two Committees report at the beginning of the second stage scrutiny and again regionalised and placed on the websites.

Copies of the draft Order to be circulated to the chief executives of magistrates' courts by 7 December so that they would be aware of its probable contents before the Order is made so that they would be able to advise any individuals enquiring about the process.

We shall also this week be giving the Whips' Offices in the Houses advance notice of the time constraints affecting the draft Order and of its importance, so that they can give early consideration to the need to find appropriate slots for the approval by each House.

I hope that this is all helpful. Please let me know if the Committee requires any further information.

ANDREW CUNNINGHAM

Head of Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Policy

 

14 November 2002

 

  ATTACHMENT

 

INFORMATION TO BE INCLUDED IN A PRESS NOTICE TO BE ISSUED AT THE BEGINNING OF DECEMBER AND ON THE DAY THE REGULATORY REFORM (SPECIAL OCCASIONS LICENSING) ORDER 2002 IS MADE, IF APPROVED BY PARLIAMENT

If approved by Parliament, the Government anticipates that a regulatory reform order will be made by 20 December relaxing permitted licensing hours on New Year's Eve this year and for all future New Years' Eves.

The Regulatory Reform (Special Occasions Licensing) Order 2002 would extend permitted licensing hours from the end of normal opening hours on New Year's Eve this year until the start of normal hours on New Year's Day. Similar arrangements would also apply to New Years' Eve 2003. This will allow on-licensed premises and registered members' clubs to open for a continuous period of 36 hours between 11.00am on 31 December 2002 until 11.00pm on New Year's Day 2003. This replicates the arrangements which existed on Millennium Eve and during New Year's Eve 2001 which were entirely successful.

The premises benefiting from the relaxed hours include pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and discotheques, and members' clubs like the Royal British Legion, working men's clubs, Labour, Liberal and Conservative clubs.

If approved by Parliament, police, local authorities and local residents would have rights in the Order to apply to the magistrates' courts for orders restricting the hours of opening between 11.00pm on New Year's Eve and 11.00am on New Year's Day in respect of individual on-licensed premises or registered members' clubs which they believe may cause disorder or disturbance if allowed to open at these later hours. Five days notice must be given to the chief executive at the local magistrates' courts of any application which is going to be made.

It is important to note that if the regulatory reform order is brought into force on 20 December, individuals wishing to make such applications would need to apply to their local magistrates' court on that day to ensure that there is time for the courts to consider them. Potential applicants may therefore wish to begin considering now whether they would want to obtain such an order.

Local magistrates' court chief executives will be able to advise local residents exactly how an application can be made. Details of local residents' rights under the Order can be found on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's website (www.culture.gov.uk).

The system of restriction orders is similar to that which operated last year and during the Golden Jubilee, but only a tiny number were then sought.

The Government believes that people will show the kind of good spirit which they exhibited last year and can be trusted to enjoy the extended hours sensibly.

Before the regulatory reform order can be made, it must be given further scrutiny by the Select Committees responsible for Regulatory Reform in Parliament and both Houses must then approve the Order.

 


 
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Prepared 25 November 2002