Major Reform Of The Licensing Laws Completed


The modernisation of England and Wales' archaic licensing laws was last night given the go-ahead by Parliament. This paves the way for delivery of the Government's promise to provide for flexible pub licensing hours.

Having been approved by both Houses of Parliament, the Licensing Bill will now go forward for Royal Assent, after which it will become law.  Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said:

 "This Bill will give the responsible majority of people more freedom and choice about how they spend their leisure time. It replaces an out-of-date, mish-mash of legislation with a modern, accessible regime, responsive to the society it serves.

"It balances liberalisation and deregulation with new levels of protection for local residents and communities."

Key points of the Bill are:

· Flexible opening hours - This will give people more freedom and choice while helping minimise public disorder resulting from artificially fixed closing times, encouraging a more civilised culture in pubs, bars and restaurants.

· Tough measures to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder
– Including new police powers to close licensed premises without notice for up to 24 hours where disorder is occurring, in order to protect the public and prevent further disorder.

· A greater say for the public – Licences will be granted by electorally accountable licensing authorities, instead of magistrates, and local residents can make representations and have them taken into account in deciding applications. Local residents will be able to appeal to magistrates courts about licensing decisions if their representations have not been taken properly into account.

· Strengthened protection for children – This will provide a clarification of the often misunderstood laws relating to children and alcohol. Children under 16 will need to be accompanied by an adult to enter pubs. The legal age for drinking alcohol on licensed premises and for buying it there will remain at 18.

· Less red tape – The amalgamation of six existing licensing regimes into a single integrated scheme for licensing premises, which sell alcohol, provide regulated entertainment to the public or provide refreshment late at night.


Tessa Jowell added:

"As with most legislation, scrutiny by Parliament has improved this Bill. For example, the regulation of live music has caused concerns but we have listened to those concerns and taken action where we think it is the right thing to do. The end result is a better Bill and I thank all those who have helped shaped it over the past nine months."

Following Royal Assent, there will be a transitional period to enable switch over from the current licensing system to the new regime. This will enable licensing authorities and the industry to put measures in place before the new regime takes effect.



Notes to Editors

1. Fuller details of the contents of the Bill are as follows:

· The amalgamation of six existing licensing regimes (alcohol, public entertainment, cinemas, theatres, late night refreshment house and night café).

· A single integrated scheme for licensing premises which sell alcohol, provide entertainment to the public or provide refreshment late at night, sweeping away considerable red tape and cost.

· Premises licence to incorporate licensing operating conditions (e.g. hours, fire exits, capacity) addressing the key areas of crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance and protection of children from harm. They will be set locally, if necessary, on the basis of the balance of, among other things, operators' requirements, residents' views and police and fire authority assessments in the overall public interest.

· A new system of personal licences which allow holders to sell or supply alcohol for consumption on or off any premises in respect of which there is a premises licence. (Those providing regulated entertainment or refreshment at night which do not involve alcohol, would require a premises licence only).

· Personal licences to be issued for 10 years to those aged 18 and over following a test of knowledge of licensing law and social responsibilities and subject to police scrutiny if relevant or foreign offences have been committed, with provision for suspension or withdrawal of licences within that period: abolition of vague "fit and proper person" test in respect of licences to sell alcohol.

· Personal and premises licences to be issued by licensing authorities: generally local authorities.

· Premises licences to be supported by flexible range of remedies following review (including temporary reduction in opening hours) instead of present single all or nothing sanction available to licensing justices of loss of licence if conditions have been breached.

· An avenue of appeal for parties (including the police and local residents following representations) to the magistrates' courts.

· To minimise public disorder resulting from fixed closing times, the opportunity for flexible opening hours, subject to consideration of representations made by local residents and other interested parties and responsible authorities (and therefore existing permitted hours to be abolished).

· Children under 16 to be allowed access to pubs only if accompanied by an adult. Licensing authorities to have the ability, if necessary, to restrict or deny access for children to unsuitable licensed venues following representations.

· The legal age for drinking alcohol on licensed premises and for buying it there, whether as off-sales or on-sales, both to remain at 18. An exception will allow 16 and 17 year olds accompanied by an adult to consume alcohol of less than spirits strength with a table meal on licensed premises.

· New requirements in the wake of the Thames Safety Inquiry for licensing the sale of alcohol, and the provision of entertainment and late night refreshment on boats travelling within England and Wales.

· New arrangements for non-profit making qualifying clubs supplying alcohol to their members which preserve their special status.


· Incidental live and recorded music to be exempted from licensing for the first time.

· Unamplified, live music in small venues to be treated exceptionally to ensure traditional and amateur folk music thrives.

· For the first time, the provision of entertainment in a school and sixth form college by the school or college will be exempted from the licensing fee associated with that provision.

· The current exemption from the payment of fees for entertainment in every village hall, church hall and community building outside Greater London, and extending it throughout the whole of England and Wales.

· For the first time, it will cost nothing extra to get permission to put on live music in pubs – given that pubs have to get a licence anyway for the sale of alcohol, applying for permission at the same time for provision of live music becomes effectively free.

· Power for the Secretary of State to declare special hours up to 24 for all premises on special international, national and local occasions, like World Cups, Royal Jubilees and Commonwealth Games.

· Abolition of a range of ancient and special privileges regarding sales of alcohol held by the Crown, certain theatres, the Vintners of the City of London, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

· Repeal of the Welsh Sunday Opening Polls which can result in the sale of alcohol on Sundays being prohibited in Welsh Districts.

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