Examination of Witnesses (Questions 393
TUESDAY 3 JUNE 2008
HAYWARD OBE AND
Q393 Chairman: We are delighted to
welcome to the next phase of our inquiry Mr James Lowman, Chief
Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores; Mr Rob Hayward,
Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association; Mr Alan
Brown, Director of Group Loss, Prevention and Security at Tesco;
and Mr Rob Chester, Head of Licensing at Asda. We are conducting
a detailed inquiry into policing in the 21st century. As all of
you gentlemen will know, the impact of alcohol on crime is quite
dramatic. The figures we have been given reveal that the annual
cost of alcohol-related crime in different areas of policy is
£7.3 billion. Because we have four witnesses and many questions
coming from colleagues brief questions will be put and if we have
replies that are as brief as possible we can get a contribution
from all of the witnesses to all relevant questions that concern
you. Perhaps I may ask all of the witnesses: what is your assessment
of the impact of the Licensing Act in terms of alcohol consumption?
Has it resulted in an increase in alcohol consumption in the United
Mr Chester: I do not believe there
has been a direct link between the two things. The Licensing Act
2003 was a robust piece of legislation which was very challenging
for us in local areas. I think it has some strengths and weaknesses,
but I do not say there is a direct link.
Q394 Chairman: You do not believe
that it has had any effect?
Mr Chester: I do not believe there
is a direct link between the two.
Q395 Chairman: Do you say that more
alcohol has been consumed?
Mr Chester: I would say that alcohol
consumption is on the rise at the moment, but I would not say
that that is a direct result of the legislation.
Mr Lowman: The Licensing Act has
proved to be very costly for our members, but it is very flexible
and robust in the way it operates. It challenges our members in
terms of standards and gives local authorities and stakeholders
including the police immediate and effective powers in respect
of licensed premises. I do not think there has been a link between
the Licensing Act and changes in alcohol consumption.
Q396 Chairman: But has it resulted
in more action being taken by local authorities against some of
Mr Lowman: Yes. Under the previous
Licensing Act 1964 one either lost one's licence or did not lose
it; it was, if you like, the nuclear option. The Licensing Act
2003 has much more flexibility for conditions to apply to premises
on specific issues, whether they be related to opening hours,
training or something else.
Q397 Chairman: Do you agree with
Mr Chester that the consumption of alcohol is on the increase?
Mr Lowman: My understanding is
that in the past couple of years that has not been the case; the
amount of alcohol consumed has declined. In answering the original
question, I do not see an increase or decrease being linked to
the Licensing Act 2003.
Q398 Chairman: Mr Hayward, are we
drinking more beer?
Mr Hayward: We are certainly not
drinking more beer. Beer consumption in pubs has gone down by
9% since the introduction of the Licensing Act. To echo what Mr
Lowman has just saidthe figures are available from the
Treasuryalcohol consumption went down in 2005 and 2006
and increased slightly in 2007. There is not a link per se with
the Licensing Act. According to Home Office and DCMS figures,
licensing hours of pubs and bars have extended by only 21 minutes
following the introduction of the Licensing Act. There is not
a correlation. Beer sales continue to fall quite dramatically
Mr Brown: Our view of the Licensing
Act is that it has provided a far more flexible approach to the
sale of alcohol which perhaps reflects how communities and people's
work patterns are changing. It has provided an opportunity to
have a responsible approach to that. As to what it means in terms
of our engagement in policing, I think it has been a very welcome
development in bringing the licensing trade, police, trading standards
and local authorities far closer together and provides a good
basis for us to be able to take forward a much better working
relationship than there was in the past when perhaps one either
had a licence or did not have a licence. It has set some very
clear standards that we are very happy to meet and we are disappointed
when we fail to do so.
Q399 Chairman: Do you recognise the
figure of £7.3 billion that I put to you? Is no one prepared
to challenge that?
Mr Brown: I do not believe that
I am in a position to challenge that at the moment.