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The three certainties of life – death, taxes and more changes to the Licensing Act….


On 24/07/13 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)


Coverage of last week’s Government response to the Alcohol Strategy was dominated by the postponement of Minimum Unit Pricing and the decision not to outlaw multi-buy promotions of alcoholic drinks. However, a number of changes to licensing law were amongst the proposals – both positive and negative for the pub trade.


First up, the positives. An increase in the number of Temporary Event Notices (TENs) a venue can apply for, from 12 to 15, will allow pubs to hold more events over the course of a year. Speculation as to what would happen to personal licence renewals in light of the upcoming mass renewal date was laid to rest with the decision that ten-year renewals would be abolished – along with the promise of an upcoming consultation on whether there is a need for a personal licence at all.

Whilst these moves are helpful, the Government missed a key deregulation opportunity in deciding to retain the requirement to advertise applications and variations in local newspapers - despite the majority of respondents to the consultation being in favour of abolishing it. This is a bureaucratic obligation that is unnecessary and ineffective in eliciting responses from residents.


Placing such advertisements incurs unnecessary cost for businesses (Government quoted a cost to the trade of £7-8m per year). A study by licensing solicitors indicated that of some 8,000 premises licence applications lodged under the Licensing Act requiring public notice, none had attracted a representation because of a newspaper advertisement. The Government’s defence, that this needs to be retained in case it reduced opportunities for local people to have a say in licensing submissions, is weak given the wide range of other opportunities for them to do so, and cuts across the Government’s commitment to reduce unnecessary red tape and cost for businesses.


The Alcohol Strategy response also proposed changes to the Mandatory Conditions. These include requiring pubs to list the price of the smaller measures (in addition to the existing requirement to offer the measures themselves) of half a pint of beer, 25ml or 35ml spirit and the 125ml glass of wine. The promotions condition is tightened up – with a proscribed list of promotions similar to that existing under the Scottish licensing regime replacing the current requirement that promotions have to be proved to have been carried out irresponsibly.


Finally, a strange new stipulation around the free tap water condition – the Government announced that ‘the water that all pubs and clubs must offer their customers is drinkable’. This raises concerns as to the choice of hostelries frequented by civil servants, if drinkable tap water is worthy of clarification in national legislation!



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