Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Ninth Report

Letter from the British Entertainment and Discotheque Association

I am writing further to the meeting of the Deregulation and Delegated Powers Committee earlier this week during which both civil servants from the Home Office and representatives of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea gave evidence.

We welcomed the opportunity to hear the questions your Committee had prepared and the insightful debate that subsequently developed. There were a number of issues raised both by Committee members and witnesses that merit further reflection and I would again reiterate our offer to give oral evidence to the Committee. I also understand that Business in Sport and Leisure has offered to give oral evidence.

The Different Nature of Sundays

A significant part of the evidence given by the Royal Borough was relevant to issues that were wider than the specific issue under consideration by the Committee, i.e. relaxation of the law that restricts charging for public dancing on a Sunday. Although these questions were entirely valid in the context of wider licensing reform, it is worth reflecting on the ways in which these proposals maintain differences between Sunday and other days of the week. These all contribute to a more rigorous set of safeguards compared with more general licensing requirements. For example:

  • Venues would be able to apply to open on a Sunday. Venues would not have an automatic right to open.

  • It is proposed that venues opening under these proposals would be permitted to open only until 12:30am rather than 2am (or 3am in central London) and discretion could be imposed locally to impose an earlier time where appropriate.

  • The Order contains powers for local police that would be specific to Sundays.

  • Experience from Scotland where Sunday opening is permitted suggests that Sunday attracts an older, more restrained clientele. Most of the younger (and noisier) 18 - 25 year old age group remains committed to Saturday night events.

Widespread Local Authority Support

While BEDA recognises the rights of authorities such as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to object to these proposals, we would point out that of the sixty-seven local authorities that responded to the Home Office consultation exercise, fifty-eight were in favour of the proposal. In addition, organisations such as the English Tourism Board (now the English Tourism Council), fifty-six local authority members of the British Resorts Association, the Local Government Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers are all on record as supporting these proposals.

Local Authority Opt-Outs

While indidivual authorities may find the proposition of being allowed to opt out of any deregulation of Sunday dancing attractive, we would caution against the adoption of such a policy. This approach would be akin to zoning, which our experience suggests has a number of drawbacks. In particular, this would result in local residents living near the borders of authorities being effectively subject to the effects of the licensing policies of more than one local authority without adequate democratic recourse. Furthermore, I understand that during the passage of the previous Deregulation Order that proposed to allow Sunday dancing, a similar proposal was ruled illegal by Home Office lawyers.

Incorporation into the Licensing White Paper

Nightclubs have been waiting for many years now for the opportunity to meet consumer demand for the prospect of imminent reform was delayed indefinitely while the expected White Paper on licensing Sunday trading. We feel it would be detrimental to the development of our industry in reform is finalised and published and any legislative proposals taken forward.

In conclusion, BEDA would reiterate our support of the proposals and urge your Committee to recommend their adoption.

Jon Collins
Executive Director
10 March 2000

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