Will The UK Shake Up Licensing Laws?

Will The UK Shake Up Licensing Laws?

With a scheme in Scotland introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol, there are calls for the rest of the UK to follow suit if it is successful.

Although Holyrood brought in the 50p per unit minimum charge back in 2012, it has been hindered by legal challenges and has yet to be introduced to pubs and bars in Scotland.

The Scotch Whisky Association is currently waiting for a Supreme Court appeal, after losing its challenge in Scotland’s Court of Session in 2016. Once the legal wrangling is out of the way, the new minimum unit price could be rolled out across Scotland – and pave the way for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to do the same.

A Lords Select Committee, which has been scrutinising the Licensing Act 2003, recently stated that should the minimum price per unit be shown to cut down on excessive drinking then it should be rolled out across the UK.

The committee has also issued a number of other findings and recommendations in relation to its review of the act, including describing the current system of licensing as “something of a lottery”.

It is recommending that licensing should be integrated with planning applications, which would see local authority licensing committees abolished.

Chair of the committee Baroness McIntosh of Pickering said that the committee could not understand why the separate licensing committees were established in the first place, given that the planning system could easily deal with licensing applications in addition to its other duties.

She added: “We also cannot understand why the government has decided not to apply the Act to sales at airports. This can lead to dangerous situations, and must be changed.”

However, not everyone agrees with the select committee’s verdict, particularly where local licensing committees are concerned.

Councillor Chris Pillai, licensing spokesman for the Local Government Association, commented that many of those who work with the licensing committees on a regular basis don’t want to see further upheaval, and therefore they should remain.

He added that less than one per cent of more than 21,000 licensing applications made in 2016 were challenged – figures that he says support the “fairness and sound basis” being used by the committees in making their decisions.

“There is scope for the planning and licensing frameworks to link together more closely. However, putting planning committees in charge of licensing decisions will not tackle current flaws in the Licensing Act,” Cllr Pillai asserted.

Of course, the report published by the Lords Select Committee only includes recommendations and there is no indication yet of how many of these the government will implement – if any. However, it is worth paying close attention to the Scottish decision on minimum unit pricing, as it seems likely that this could be introduced north and south of the border in the future.

If you hold a personal license you’ll know that you need to keep abreast of the latest changes and updates to the Licensing Act 2003. Taking a CIEH Licensing Law Awareness course could be a good way to brush up your knowledge and ensure you fully understand the legislation as it currently stands.