Memorandum submitted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Policy Context

1. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is the Government Department responsible for licensing policy, law and regulation. In taking forward this work, the Department is guided by Departmental Strategic Objective 3:

DSO3: Economic impact - Maximise the economic impact of its investment, improving value for money, taking full advantage of the contribution these sectors make towards the Government's long-term goal of raising productivity and protect consumers through proportionate and effective regulation.

2. A key measure of success in delivering DSO 3 will be the reduction of administrative burdens on business caused by DCMS regulation as measured against a baseline set in May 2005.

3. The Department also works closely with the Home Office and the Department of Health in supporting their delivery of PSA 25:

 

· Reduce the harm caused by alcohol and drugs (lead Department Home Office)

 

Licensing Act History

 

4. In 1998, George Howarth, the responsible Minister in the Home Office, announced a review of the liquor licensing laws. This involved all key stakeholders: the police, magistrates, local authorities, industry and groups such as Alcohol Concern. The review continued until 1999 and led to the White Paper published in April 2000.

 

5. Also in 1998, a sub-group of the Better Regulation Task Force (BRTF), chaired by the Association of Chief Police Officers, reviewed the licensing laws. Their work led to the BRTF's report "Licensing Legislation", published in 1998[1]. It recommended that the Government should reform the alcohol and public entertainment licensing laws; deregulate licensing; allow greater flexibility; and transfer responsibility from the magistrates to local authorities.

 

6. The White Paper, "Time for Reform: Proposals for the Modernisation of Our Licensing Laws"[2] was published on 10 April 2000 for a three month public consultation which generated just over 1200 responses.

 

7. In May 2001, the then Home Secretary announced his intention to legislate to reform the laws with only minor adjustments to the original White Paper proposals. On 8 June 2001, the Government transferred responsibility for licensing policy to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

 

8. A Licensing Bill was laid before Parliament in November 2002 and the Licensing Act 2003 ("the 2003 Act") received Royal Assent on 10 July 2003. The Act applies only in England and Wales.

 

9. A transitional period, during which old licences were converted into new ones, took place between 7 February 2005 and 24 November 2005 when the 2003 Act came fully into force.

 

10. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 amended the 2003 Act. As a result, in April 2007, new offence provisions were brought into force concerning "persistently selling" alcohol to children. In October 2007, new provisions came into force allowing for "fast track" reviews of licences where premises were associated with serious crime and/or serious disorder. The latter provisions were primarily designed to tackle gun and knife crime.

 

Background to the 2003 Act

11. The purpose of the 2003 Act was to modernise and replace a raft of licensing statutes, which concerned the licensing of the sale of alcohol; the provision of entertainment; and the provision of late night refreshment. The main statutes were:

· Schedule 12 to the London Government Act 1963

· Licensing Act 1964

· Private Places of Entertainment Act 1967

· Theatres Act 1968

· Late Night Refreshment Act 1969

· Schedule 1 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982

· Cinemas Act 1985[3]

· Part 2 of the London Local Authorities Act 1990

 

12. Essentially, the Act aimed to replace eight licensing regimes, governed by three different licensing authorities (and in the case of special orders of exemption also by the Commissioners of Police for the Metropolis and the City of London) with a single regime under the administration of a single authority ("the licensing authorities"), which are mainly local authorities[4].

 

Licensing objectives

13. The Act aimed for the first time to bring clarity to the purpose for which activities were to be regulated. The statutory purpose of the system introduced is to promote four fundamental objectives ("the licensing objectives"). Those objectives are:

a)      the prevention of crime and disorder;

b)      public safety;

c)      the prevention of public nuisance; and

d)      the protection of children from harm.

Other aims

14. Ministers also made clear that they hoped the Act would support a number of other key aims and purposes:

· More democratic arrangements for alcohol licensing with decisions devolved to locally elected councillors rather than the courts;

· The introduction of better and more proportionate regulation to give business greater freedom and flexibility to meet their customers' expectations;

· Greater choice for consumers, including tourists, about where, when and how they spend their leisure time;

· The encouragement of more family friendly premises where younger children can be free to go with the family;

· The further development within communities of our rich culture of live music, dancing and theatre, both in rural areas and in our towns and cities;

· The regeneration of areas that needed increased investment and employment opportunities; and

· The necessary protection of local residents, whose lives can be blighted by disturbance and anti-social behaviour associated with some people visiting places of entertainment.

 

Licensable activities

 

15. The Act regulates the sale by retail of alcohol; the supply of alcohol by or on behalf of a club to a member of the club; the provision of regulated entertainment; and the provision of late night refreshment (hot food and drink after 11pm).

 

16. Regulated entertainment includes:

 

· A performance of a play

· An exhibition of a film

· An indoor sporting event

· A boxing or wrestling entertainment

· A performance of live music

· Any playing of recorded music

· A performance of dance

 

17. It also includes the provision of facilities for making music or dancing. Various exemptions apply and are detailed in Schedule 1 to the Act.

 

18. Types of premises affected by the 2003 Act include:

 

§ Public spaces such as market squares, village greens or open fields

§ Concert halls

§ Theatres

§ Cinemas

§ Public houses

§ Restaurants

§ Hotels and some guest houses and B&Bs

§ Bars

§ Nightclubs

§ Casinos

§ Bingo Halls

§ Canteens retailing alcohol

§ Supermarkets

§ Shops and convenience stores retailing alcohol

§ Department stores retailing alcohol

§ Garages retailing alcohol

§ Non - profit making clubs with 25 members or more (including, sports clubs, political clubs (Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative Clubs), working mens' clubs, miners' institutes, ex-services clubs (e.g. Royal British Legion) and others

§ Village, church and community halls

§ Indoor sports complexes staging sports entertainments

§ Outdoor venues staging boxing and wrestling entertainments

§ Late night cafes

§ Late night "take aways"

 

19. The 2003 Act is the mechanism by which film exhibitors are obliged to comply with film classifications given by the BBFC, or in the alternative, by the licensing authority.

 

20. Late night refreshment covers the provision of hot food or hot (non alcoholic) drink between 11.00pm and 5.00am. Again, numerous exemptions apply.

 

21. The system of licensing is achieved through the provision of authorisations, which include personal licences, premises licences, club premises certificates and temporary event notices.

 

Personal licences

22. Personal licences authorise individuals to sell or supply alcohol, or authorise the sale or supply of alcohol, for consumption on or off premises for which a relevant premises licence is in force. A personal licence is not required where the licensable activities are confined to entertainment or late night refreshment.

23. To qualify for a personal licence an individual must be aged 18 or over, possess a recognised accredited qualification and be able to show the licensing authority that he has not been convicted of certain offences ("relevant offences" and "foreign offences").

24. If a person has been convicted of a relevant offence or foreign offence, and taking into account the views of the police, the licensing authority can refuse to grant a personal licence if it considers that doing so would undermine the crime prevention objective. Personal licences last for ten years and are then renewable.

 

Premises licences

25. A premises licence authorises the holder of the licence to use the premises to which the licence relates ("the licensed premises") for licensable activities.

26. The premises licence details operating conditions. The purpose of these conditions is to regulate the use of the premises for licensable activities in line with the licensing objectives. They will vary according to the risks each individual premises presents to the achievement of the four objectives. In the case of alcohol, the old permitted hours have been abolished. In effect, the hours of trading for each premises are another condition which will vary according to the risks identified.

27. A premises licence has effect until the licence is revoked or surrendered, but otherwise is not time limited unless the applicant requests a licence for a limited period. There are no renewal procedures. Under the old licensing regimes licences had to be renewed either on an annual or on a triennial basis.

28. Representations may be made about an application for the grant of a premises licence; for example by local residents and businesses, the police, the fire authority and other public bodies with responsibility for environmental health, health and safety, children, trading standards and planning.

29. Such representations must concern the promotion of the licensing objectives. Once the licence has been granted the same classes of persons and bodies may seek a review[5] of the premises licence and the conditions attaching to it.

 

Club premises certificates

30. Club premises certificates provide authorisation for qualifying clubs to use club premises for qualifying club activities. Such clubs tend to be, for example, political clubs, sports clubs, ex-services clubs, working men's clubs and social clubs with at least 25 members. The qualifying club activities are a subset of the licensable activities. They are the supply of alcohol by or on behalf of a club to a member of the club, the sale by retail of alcohol by or on behalf of a club to a guest of a member for consumption on the premises and the provision of regulated entertainment by or on behalf of a club for its members and guests. A qualifying club does not require a permission for late night refreshment or a Designated Premises Supervisor.

31. As with premises licences, the right to make representations on the application for a club premises certificate is given to a range of persons and bodies.

 

Temporary event notices

32. The 2003 Act established new arrangements for the carrying on of licensable activities at occasional or temporary events. These arrangements replace the multiple systems of "occasional permissions" and "occasional licences" which applied to the old alcohol and entertainment regimes.

 

33. They apply in relation to events with fewer than 500 people (including staff) attending at any one time. The new arrangements are based on a notification to the licensing authority of salient details of the event and an acknowledgement by that authority of the notification. To reflect the temporary nature of the events, these arrangements do not place organisers under the same obligations that apply in relation to those who regularly wish to undertake licensable activities on or from premises.

 

34. Such notices are subject to various limitations. These include:

 

· no more than 12 may be given for the same premises in a calendar year;

· in aggregate, the 12 temporary event notices given for the same premises may not exceed 15 days.

· no more than 5 TENs may be given by any individual (who does not hold a personal licence) in a calendar year;

· no more than 50 TENs may be given by a personal licence holder in a calendar year; and

· the duration of a temporary event may not exceed 96 hours.

 

35. TENs are given by community groups and organisations such as parent/teacher associations, as well as commercial organisations.

Licensing statistics

 

36. According to the DCMS Statistical Bulletin[6] as at 31 March 2007, there were 162,100 premises licences and 15,200 club premises certificates in force. There were over a quarter of a million personal licence holders [based on responses from 86% of LAs].

 

§ 123,700 licences and certificates in force were authorised to sell alcohol [based on responses from approx. 70% of LAs]:

· 32,900 premises licences were authorised for off-sale of alcohol only.

· 28,100 licences authorised on-sale of alcohol only, of which 4,900 were club premises certificates (e.g. political clubs, workingmen's clubs, British Legion etc)

· 62,700 allowed both on and off sales, of which 7,300 were club premises certificates.

§ Just over 50,000 premises were licensed for late night refreshment. [72% response rate]

§ 72,600 premises licences and 9,100 club premises certificates were authorised for any form of entertainment. Over 260,000 regulated entertainment activities were authorised; the most common types of which were playing of recorded music and the staging of live music. [this is based on 68% of all LAs]

§ 5,100 premises had 24 hour licences [Based on 83% of all LAs].

· 3,320 of which are hotel bars which have always been able to serve their guests alcohol for 24 hours.

· 920 are supermarkets and stores. We do not have any data on actual opening times of such premises, although one of the trade bodies representing the off-trade has suggested that one of its largest members reports that 15% of their stores with 24 hour alcohol licences do not actually open their stores for 24 hours. Others choose not to open their alcohol aisles for 24 hours, often following discussions with the police about local issues.

· 470 pubs, bars and nightclubs have 24 hour licences, but there is no evidence that more than a handful operate on that basis.

§ Around 100,000 TENs were given in 2006/07 [85% response rate], mainly by non-commercial organisations

Fees

37. The Act provides for the setting of fees in relation to applications, notifications, licences and certificates. Fees are set centrally and aim to be set on the basis of full recovery of the costs to local authorities of their functions under the 2003 Act.

 

Reviews

38. The Act allows interested parties and responsible authorities to ask the licensing authority to review premises licences and certificates if problems arise in relation to one or more of the licensing objectives. Licensing authorities have the power, on review of a premises licence or certificate, to suspend or revoke the licence, and/or to exclude specific licensable activities from the licence, and/or to modify operating conditions attaching to the licence; and/or to require the removal of the designated premises supervisor (where one exists). These powers must be exercised only where they are necessary to promote the licensing objectives.

39. This graduated system of sanctions replaced the single choice available to licensing justices under the old alcohol licensing regime of either revoking a licence or doing nothing when problems arose. Justices were understandably reluctant to put individuals out of business and their staff out of jobs unless the issues were very serious. The new arrangements allow for a proportionate response to the issue before the licensing committee.

 

Closure powers

40. The 2003 Act confers powers on the police to close individual licensed premises to deal expeditiously with disorderly behaviour and excessive noise; these powers are both anticipatory and reactive. The police may also seek an order from the courts to close multiple licensed premises in a geographical area where disorder is either actually taking place or is anticipated. Powers to close licensed premises are also included in section 19 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (to do with breaches of conditions at on-licensed premises) and sections 40 and 41 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (to do with noise nuisance).

 

Enforcement

41. The new regime is supported by a range of offences, inspection powers and enforcement provisions.

42. Breach of a licensing condition is a serious offence which can render the holder of the premises licence (often a business) liable to a maximum fine of £20,000 or imprisonment up to six months or both.

43. Fines for selling alcohol to children under 18 were increased fivefold by the Act to a maximum of £5,000.

44. Fines for selling alcohol to people who are drunk were doubled by the Act to a maximum of £1,000.

 

Selling alcohol to children and purchase of alcohol by children

45. Under the old alcohol licensing regime, the laws governing sales of alcohol to children applied only to licensed premises. The 2003 Act made it an offence to sell alcohol to children under 18 anywhere and abolished the arrangements which had made it lawful to sell alcohol to children in:

· almost 20,000 non-profit making members' clubs;

· on river and coastal cruises; and

· on trains.

46. Provisions which had allowed children over 5 years to consume alcohol in around 25,000 restaurants and in areas in public houses away from the "bar area" (such as the beer garden) were also repealed.

47. It had also been lawful for children aged 16 or 17 years to purchase and consume beer, porter and cider where they were consuming them with a table meal. These provisions were replaced with new provisions which allowed children aged 16 and 17 to consume (but not purchase) wine, beer and cider with a table meal where they are accompanied at the meal by an adult that had purchased the alcohol.

48. Test purchasing of alcohol sales to under 18s under the authority of the police or trading standards officers was first made lawful by the Government in the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. These provisions were continued in the 2003 Act and have become central to campaigns since 2004 to tackle unlawful selling to children. Overall, the test purchase failure rate has fallen from 50% in 2004 to 15% in 2007.[7]

49. The most recent data on consumption by 11 - 15 year olds is contained in "Drug Use, Smoking and Drinking Among Young People In England in 2007"[8]. It reports that the proportion of 11-15 year olds who have never drunk alcohol has risen in recent years from 39 per cent in 2003 to 46 per cent in 2007. There has been a corresponding decline in the proportion of pupils who have drunk alcohol in the last seven days from 26 per cent in 2001 to 20 per cent in 2007. But for those who do drink, the amount drunk is increasing.

 

Evaluation

50. An evaluation of the implementation of the Licensing Act 2003 was completed and published on 4 March 2008[9]. On the same day, the Secretary of State made a Written Statement in the House about the evaluation[10]. The evaluation included:

· An assessment of the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on levels of crime and disorder (Home Office report) (more detail is given later in this Memorandum);

· The views of ten licensing authorities - the "Scrutiny Councils" on how the new licensing regime is being delivered and whether it is meeting its aims - Scrutiny Council Initiative: Progress Report 2007;

· An assessment of the impact on terminal hour by market segment (ie. actual closing times);

· An Independent Fees Review Panel to ensure the fees are set at the right level for local government and licensees;

· A review of the Guidance to licensing authorities and the police on the discharge of their functions under the Act;

· The first Licensing Statistical Collection for the new regime;

· The Live Music Forum's Report "Findings and Recommendations" (more detail is given in later in this Memorandum); and

· Independent research to establish live music activity in England and Wales prior to and following the implementation of the 2003 Act.

 

51. In the first year of the new licensing regime, overall problems of crime and disorder did not increase. In aggregate, five case study sites showed little change. Overall violent crime fell by three per cent. In four out of five[11] sites there was a fall in levels of violent crime between 11pm and midnight; and a small proportion of violent crimes between 3am and 5am grew in the year after the change. The proportionate increase in these areas was large, but the absolute numerical increase was very small.

52. Alcohol consumption figures from the General Household Survey and derived from HM Customs and Revenue statistics indicate that alcohol consumption has been falling in recent years.

 


Changes in levels of public nuisance, numbers of night-time offences or perceptions of public safety

53. Appendix A to the Evaluation of the Impact of the Licensing Act 2003[12] utilised the following evidential strands to evaluate the impact of the 2003 Act on levels of crime and disorder:

· A statistical exercise covering 30 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales;

· A national telephone survey of police licensing officers;

· Findings of the British Crime Survey (BCS) Night Time Economy module covering periods before and after implementation; and

· Detailed case studies of the experience of five towns and cities.

 

54. The Report assessed against the available evidence the impact of the Act on:

· Licensing hours;

· Consumption;

· Crime and disorder in the five case study areas; and

· Crime and disorder nationally.

 

55. In doing so, it looked at:

· Serious violent crime;

· Low level offending and anti-social behaviour, including harassment offences;

· The spread of offences at different times of day and night;

· Perceptions of the safety of people in town centres at night; and

· Levels of people witnessing drunken anti-social behaviour in town centres.

 

56. The main findings in relation to crime and disorder were:

· There are no clear signs yet that the abolition of a standard closing time has significantly reduced problems of crime and disorder and, overall, the volume of incidents of crime and disorder appears unchanged.

· There are signs that crimes involving serious violence may have reduced overall, but there is also evidence of temporal displacement, in that the small proportion of violent crime occurring in the small hours of the morning has grown.

· Alcohol-related demands on Accident and Emergency (A&E) services appear to have been stable in aggregate, though some individual hospitals have seen increased demand, others a fall.

· Police, local authorities and licensees generally welcomed the changes, the new powers it gave them, and the Act's partnership philosophy. They did not report significant problems with implementation - once teething problems were solved - and did not think generally that alcohol-related problems of crime and disorder had worsened.

· In surveys, local residents were less likely to say that drunk and rowdy behaviour was a problem after the change than before it, and the majority thought that alcohol-related crime was stable or declining.

· The main conclusion to be drawn from the evaluation is that licensing regimes may be one factor in effecting change to the country's drinking culture - and its impact on crime - but they do not appear to be the critical factor. The key issue is how they interact with other factors.

 

57. The Home Office evaluation also indicated that, while the Act's impact on crime and disorder has so far been broadly neutral, 13 out of 27 police licensing officers felt that the Act had improved crime and disorder, a similar number felt it had been mixed or made no difference, and only one felt it had got worse. This was consistent with the findings of a National Audit Office report on the effectiveness of violent crime reduction at local level which found that 46 per cent of Crime and Disorder Reductions Partnerships found the Licensing Act either effective or very effective in reducing violent crime, whereas 41 per cent reported that it was neither effective nor ineffective, and 13 per cent considered it to be either ineffective or very ineffective.[13]

 

58. The evidence suggests that the predictions of increases in crime and disorder that accompanied the Act's implementation have not been borne out. There are some signs of positive benefits from the new legislation, with those who are involved in its operation generally positive about the new regime.

 

59. However, despite some positive reports from some areas, there is no consistent evidence of a positive impact. While there are signs that crimes involving serious violence may have reduced, there is also evidence of a shift in the small proportion of violent crime occurring in the small hours of the morning.

 

60. The Secretary of State announced a number of measures as a result of the evaluation in a written Ministerial statement to Parliament.[14] As a result the Home Office and DCMS are conducting additional research into violent crime in the early hours and patterns of post midnight opening. They are also progressing a programme of activities to encourage better local partnership working between enforcement authorities and to share best practice in identifying problem premises and using licensing powers alongside other interventions to deal with them.

 

61. The Scrutiny Councils provided examples of where the legislation had been successfully used to tackle public nuisance[15]. The Live Music Forum (see sections below on the impact of the Act on live music) found that licence conditions relating to the prevention of noise nuisance were often applied in relation to licences which included live music. The Forum felt that some authorities had been acting unreasonably by applying blanket or unnecessary and disproportionate conditions relating to noise against the spirit of the legislation and the guidance.[16]

 

62. The Scrutiny Councils raised the possibility that public nuisance concerns could be exacerbated by customers gathering outside of licensed premises as a result of smoke free legislation and this was echoed in the Department's engagement with local residents' groups. While no firm evidence yet exists about whether this has had such a negative impact, the revised statutory guidance to licensing authorities clarified how licensing can be used to control areas directly outside a licensed premises in response to issues raised during consultation.[17]

 

63. In relation to public safety, DCMS is aware that there have been some concerns about how licensing, and the public safety objective in particular, should operate following the changes to fire regulations through the Fire Reform Order.

 

64. There is no evidence linking the changes brought by the Licensing Act 2003 with incidences of road traffic accidents involving drunk drivers.

 


The impact of the 2003 Act on the performance of live music

 

65. Partly in response to concerns about the possible impact of licensing reform on the performance of live music, the Government set up the Live Music Forum in January 2004 to monitor the Act's impact on live music and to make recommendations to Government on how it might further bolster live music provision. The Forum's findings and recommendations were published on 4 July 2007[18]. The Forum found that:

· Some of the predicted benefits of Licensing reform, such as abolishing the need for annual renewal and consistency over fee levels, have been delivered.

· There was no evidence of a serious detrimental effect on overall live music provision, but neither had the legislation led to an increase in live music provision.

· The majority of local authorities had been fair and reasonable in their licensing decisions, although a minority of authorities had been acting unreasonably and against the spirit of the legislation and the guidance.

· The Forum believed licensing was not appropriate, proportionate or necessary for non-amplified performances of live music or those with audiences under 100 people.

 

66. Ministers responded on 17 December 2007[19]. A key element of the Government's response was a commitment to explore exemptions for low-risk performances of live music which do not cause public nuisance or compromise public safety. DCMS has been engaging key stakeholders in a pre-consultation exercise to try to agree possible exemption. At the time of writing, there was is consensus between stakeholders with local authority representatives particularly concerned that such exemptions will remove necessary public protection.

 

67. DCMS commissioned research to support the work of the Forum and to monitor any changes in the number of performances before and after the legislation came into effect[20]. While this suggested that the provision of live music in 'secondary' venues had declined by 5%, it did not find that the decline was due to the Licensing Act. The data suggested that decisions on staging live music were driven primarily by commercial considerations, such as customer demand, cost-efficiency and fit with the nature of the business, as well as by practical considerations, in particular the suitability of the venue for staging live music. These reasons had not changed since before the 2003 Act came into force.

 

68. The live music survey identified community halls as a premises type which had experienced one of the biggest declines in live music provisions. While it did not suggest this was due to licensing changes, separate evidence from the sector and, in particular, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), has suggested that such establishments were reluctant to obtain full licences which included alcohol sales, in large part because of difficulties in finding a volunteer to act as personal licence holder and Designated Premises Supervisor. They were therefore trying to accommodate such activities through the use of Temporary Event Notices (TENs) which are limited to 12 each year.

 

69. The Government has responded by progressing a Regulatory Reform Order to remove the requirement for a village hall to have an individual named as the Designated Premises Supervisor or a personal licence holder. When implemented, this will remove a barrier to village and community halls securing full premises licences which include the sale of alcohol, thereby reducing their reliance on a limited number of TENS. This will give such venues more flexibility to allow a range of events, including live music.

The financial impact on sporting and social clubs

 

70. Prior to the Licensing Act coming into force, representatives of sports clubs had advised Ministers that the licensing fees would have a disproportionate effect on voluntary sport. The Independent Fees Panel was therefore asked to look at this issue as part of its review. The Panel reported in December 2006[21] that it had examined the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on sports clubs and had been provided with information on impact; a rationale for reducing costs to sports clubs; and a range of options for doing so. The representative bodies all agreed with the Panel that Government cannot be seen to be subsidising the sale of alcohol and that the newly constructed licensing regime must run at full cost recovery.

71. However, those stakeholders also suggested to the Panel that sports clubs were paying significantly more in licensing fees than the Government originally envisaged because the majority of clubs did not necessarily fall into the lower fee bands (A and B) as the Government had suggested.

72. The representatives submitted to the Panel a licensing fee scheme that recognises the essential differences between not-for-profit sports clubs and commercial drinking venues; that voluntary sports clubs are established for the benefit of the community as a whole and contribute to the health and quality of life of the locality; and that this difference should be reflected in the scale of fees.

73. The Panel also reported that the evidence provided by licensing authorities to them suggested an impact on all sport clubs under the current fees regime of around £500,000, with the majority of premises in Bands A and B. The Panel advised that they had looked at this issue in detail and suggested that, should the Government wish to do so, a case could be made for introducing a system whereby all clubs in the Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASC) scheme could have their licence fee calculated at 20% of their rateable value.

74. However, the Panel said explicitly that they were uneasy about recommending this discount. They said that they had no evidence that any amateur sports clubs have actually had to discontinue licensable activity as a result of licensing fees. In addition, CASCs already benefit from rate relief alongside village and community halls and other not-for-profit facilities. The Panel therefore did not feel it would be appropriate to single out CASCs for a further discount at that time, but acknowledged that Government might wish to consider this further in the future.

75. More generally on not-for-profit groups, the Panel reported:

"Whilst we are sympathetic to not-for profit groups and cultural businesses, we have not been presented with a coherent argument or solution which we believe currently justifies any further exemptions or reductions in fees for these sectors. What has come through in our research however is more the administrative burden on these organisations. There are arguments for treating village and community halls in a similar way to community amateur sports clubs, but we believe that their concerns would be better addressed though our recommendations for Temporary Event Notices and proposals for the removal of the Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) requirements."

76. Since the Government received the Independent Fees Panel's report, no new or additional evidence has been received to indicate that sports and social clubs have suffered a detrimental financial impact as a result of the 2003 Act coming into force. Clubs have benefited in the same way as commercial operators in terms of the reduction in administrative burdens.

77. There is some indication and anecdotal evidence that smoke free legislation has had a detrimental financial impact on some non-profit making clubs.

78. In line with the Fees Panel's comments about regulatory burdens, the club movement should also benefit from the Legislative Reform Order on "Minor Variations" which the Government is currently taking forward and which, if Parliament gives approval, will introduce a simpler and abbreviated administrative process for variation applications that do not impact on the four licensing objectives.

79. It remains the position that the Government is unwilling to subsidise the consumption of alcohol in sports and social clubs. It is also not possible under the current rules governing "fees and charges" to cross-subsidise the costs generated by clubs by requiring commercial operators to pay more.

80. The Government does, however, keep the impact of the regime on sports and social clubs under review.

 


Whether the Act has led, or looks likely to lead, to a reduction in bureaucracy for those applying for licences under the new regime and for those administering it

81. The Government believes that licensing reform has delivered significant reductions in bureaucracy for those applying for and holding licences under the 2003 Act. The table below shows the annual administrative processes under the old licensing regimes which have been removed by the Licensing Act 2003 and replaced with a system whereby there is no routine renewal process for premises licences and certificates; where personal licences are renewed every ten years and a new light touch process for temporary events. The numbers below are derived from the May 2005 baseline established by PriceWaterhouseCooper[22].

 

Administrative Burden Removed

Number annually

triennial renewals of justices' licences to sell alcohol

160,000 profiled as 53,333 annually

triennial renewal of canteen licences

4,500 profiled as 1,500 annually

renewal of club registration certificates every 3 - 5 years

20,000 profiled as 5,000 annually

annual renewal of cinema licences

600

annual renewal of theatre licences

300

annual renewal of public entertainment licences outside London

60,000

annual renewal of indoor sports entertainment licences outside London

20,000

annual renewal of public entertainment licences inside London

300

annual renewal of indoor sports entertainment licences inside London

50

annual renewal of night café licences in London

3000

annual renewal of late night refreshment house licences

5000

annual renewal of private place of entertainment licences

20,000

applications for special orders of exemption

750,000

applications for supper hour certificates for restaurants

500

applications for extended hours orders for restaurants with live music

500

applications for special hours certificates for commercial premises

2000

applications for special hours certificates for registered clubs

2000

applications for "removal" of a justices' licence (transfer of a licence to another premises)

7500 (requiring court attendance by 11,250 individuals)

applications for "protection orders"

1500

maintenance of (a) "day book" and (b) delivery or invoice book

12,500

applications for children's certificates

1120

applications for Christmas Day extension of permitted hours for restaurants

6000

 

Hours of trading

82. The 2003 Act abolished "permitted hours" which had restricted the hours at which alcohol may be sold either for consumption on or off the premises. Apart from reducing the disorder that was partly caused by fixed closing times, the Government's aim was not only to give consumers greater freedom of choice and businesses greater opportunity, but also to provide tough and uncompromising powers to deal with those who abused these freedoms.

 

83. The Act established a system under which premises were free to apply individually for their preferred hours of trading, subject to representations that could be made by responsible authorities, such as the police and environmental officers, or interested parties, such as local residents and other local businesses.

 

84. The evaluation of the Licensing Act 2003 found that on average pubs, bars and clubs were trading for approximately 21 minutes per day longer than under the previous regimes. Some commentators have suggested that this proves that the Act had made very little difference. It is important to understand that this is an average. There are about 81,000 pubs, bars and clubs in England and Wales. A daily average of 21 minutes translates to approximately 10.3 million extra trading hours per year for all on-trade premises.

 

85. Licensing reform has also reduced unnecessary burdens on those administering the licensing regimes. One of the first actions under the Act was on 17 July 2003, when the Government used powers in the Act to abolish the requirement to allow polls every seven years in Welsh districts to decide whether alcohol could be sold on Sundays. Polls were due in 2003. This saved Welsh local authorities an estimated £600,000.

 

86. The abolition of the requirement to renew 160,000 alcohol licences every three years removed the requirement for the police to attend sessions at licensing magistrates thereby removing unnecessary administrative burdens on the police. The Licensing Act also remove the unintended subsidy for licence applications which had arisen from the old liquor licensing fees being set at a level which, it has been estimated, did not cover the court costs to the tune of up to £25million a year.

 

Further simplification

87. The DCMS simplification plan (see section below) sets out a number of measures to adjust the process to reduce the burdens and costs. These include measures to allow for a light touch process for minor variation to licences; to encourage village and community halls to obtain full premises licence by allowing them to remove the requirement for a designated premises supervisor; and to identify low risk activities to exempt from the regime entirely. In addition, the simplification plan commits DCMS to progress measures to simplify the various application processes and to look at the scope for introducing a single licence system for travelling entertainment, such as circuses.

88. While the focus of the simplification plans has been to remove unnecessary burdens on those regulated by the regime, aspects of the plan may have benefits for those administering the legislation. For example, making electronic applications a reality could have a significant impact on helping licensing authorities and responsible authorities deal with applications. Similarly, Ministers have said that they would look at whether they can adjust the TENs regime so that the required 48 hours notice given to the police occurs on working days rather than calendar days..

 


Whether the anticipated financial savings for relevant industries will be realised

 

Simplification and Administrative Burdens

89. The DCMS published Better Regulation Simplification Plans in 2006 and 2007[23]. Both have laid heavy weight on the importance of the contribution to be made through the licensing reform programme.

 

90. In the first plan published in 2006, DCMS committed to reducing the administrative burdens on industry resulting from the regulations for which it is responsible by 30 % by 2010. The 2007 Plan reported excellent progress. The Licensing Act 2003, implemented in November 2005, has reduced the costs of burdens by £97.2 million compared to the old licensing regimes, but without removing any of the protections. Revised licensing guidance published in March 2007 secured a further saving of £2 million. These savings were validated by an Expert Panel which included independent representatives from industry. Together, this represents a reduction in administrative burdens by 29%.

 

91. In effect, the 2003 Act has produced savings in administrative burden reductions of about £8 million per month. The Act came fully into force on 24 November 2005. By 24 November 2008, savings should amount to approximately £285 million.

 

92. The Government is currently taking forward three Legislative Reform Order proposals:

§ "minor variations", which aims to introduce a simplified and curtailed procedure for low impact variations of licences, and which has completed public consultation with an expectation of laying an Order for Parliamentary consideration in November;

§ "village halls", which aims to introduce an easier arrangement for community premises in the interests of volunteers whereby no designated premises supervisor need be specified on a licence, and which has completed public consultation with an expectation of laying an Order for Parliamentary consideration in November; and

§ "de minimis", which aims to exempt certain low impact activities from the licensing regime and which is at a pre-consultative stage with representatives of licence holders, local authorities and the police. This will be the subject of a public consultation later in the year.

92. Further licensing related elements of the simplification plan which are being worked up include the simplification of the application processes and options for a possible single transferable licence for travelling forms of licensable activity, such as travelling circuses.



[1] http://archive.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/brc/upload/assets/www.brc.gov.uk/legislation.pdf

[2] Cm 4696

[3] Only in England and Wales - the 1985 Act continues to have effect in Scotland.

[4] The others are the Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple and Under-Treasurer of the Middle Temple, the Common Council of the City of London and the Council of the Isles of Scilly.

[5] See section below: "Reviews"

[6] Bulletin covering the period to 31 March 2007 is available from the DCMS website. http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/research/AlcoholEntertainmentandLateNightRefreshmentLicensingStatisticalBulletin_janupdate.pdf The 2007/08 data collection is currently underway and will be published on 30 October 2008.

[7] http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk/press-releases/underage-sales-down

[8] http://www.ic.nhs.uk/webfiles/publications/sdd07/SDD%20Main%20report%2007%20%2808%29-Standard.pdf

[9] http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/Licensingevaluation.pdf

[10] http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/minister_speeches/1997.aspx

[11] The five case studies were Birmingham, Blackpool, Croydon, Guildford and Nottingham

[12] http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/AppendixATheimpactoftheLicensingAct2003onlevelsofcrimeanddisorder.pdf

[13] NAO report: The Home Office Reducing the Risk of Violent Crime, page 17. http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/nao_reports/07-08/0708241.pdf

[14] http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/minister_speeches/1997.aspx

 

[15] http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/ScrutinyCouncilFinalreport0706.pdf and http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/AppendixBScrutinyCouncilInitiativeProgressReport2007.pdf

[16] http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/lmf_forewordexcsummary.pdf

[17] http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/RevisedGuidanceJune2007.pdf

[18] http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/lmf_forewordexcsummary.pdf

[19] http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/publications/3639.aspx

[20] http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/research_and_statistics/4854.aspx

[21] The Panel's report was published in January 2007: http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/feepanelfinalreport.pdf

[22] http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/LiftingtheBurden.pdf page 14

[23] http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/dcmssp2007.pdf

September 2008