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BBPA responds to House of Lords committee inquiry on licensing

The BBPA has commented on the key issues arising from the House Lords committee inquiry into the 2003 Licensing Act.

BBPA Chief Executive, Brigid Simmonds, commented, “I very much welcome the Committee’s statement that “pubs, clubs and live music venues are a vital part of our cultural identity. Any decline in our cities’ world-famous night life ought to be prevented and the businesses supported.

'I also welcome the Committee's opposition to making public health a licencing objective. The licensing process wasn't designed for such a broad purpose, and should instead focus on individual venues.

“For similar reasons, the rejection of Group Review Intervention Powers is also welcome, as we don't believe blanket conditions on all premises in an area are appropriate - the focus should remain in tackling problems at specific premises.'

Abolition of the Late Night Levy
“This key recommendation has our full support. Where introduced, Late Night Levies have proved to be a damaging new tax on local businesses. Few local authorities have taken them up, and Cheltenham recently became the first council to abolish its levy in favour of a Business Improvement District (BID).

“Partnership working, between the police, local councils and local businesses, is the best way to tackle any problems in the night-time economy; this is an approach we have consistently championed. It’s welcome, therefore, to see the report recommending that Local Authorities give serious consideration to implementing BID schemes.

“For the same reason, we welcome the call to abolish Early Morning Restriction Orders as not a single local authority has taken them up.”

Scrapping of local authority licensing committees
“I welcome the committee’s highlighting of bad practice, but this could persist if licensing were transferred to Planning committees. Local authorities need clearer guidance and councillors need better training, so that they can consider key licensing decisions in the fairest and most effective way possible. I very much welcome the call for greater co-ordination within local authorities, and for training to be mandatory.”

Sale of alcohol at airports
“Airports are treated differently, but the industry works in partnership with the police and airport authorities to tackle any problems. We would be happy to review these arrangements and extend them where necessary, but the current penalties for passengers who cause flight disruption are rightly severe.”

Fees for licensing should be set locally, not nationally
“This would be a concern, as there would be a temptation for local councils to ‘gold plate’ their own licencing regimes at the expense of small local businesses. We would need a national cap on fees, and we would also certainly need a level playing field for on-trade and off-trade retailers.

“Large on-trade retailers in the higher fee band often have to pay a supplement to their licensing fees, but larger off-trade retailers do not. The system could work more fairly, to reflect the increasing share of alcohol sales in the off trade.”

Helping disabled people to access licensed premises
“We recognise the need for venues to focus on this issue. We believe that a voluntary approach, through raising awareness works best, and we have recently produced an updated version of our accessibility guide to help pubs give the best possible service for those with access needs.”