Major changes to licensing laws have started their passage through Parliament with the Police Reform & Social Responsibility Bill being laid. Over the summer NUS responded to the consultation on these proposed changes to the Licensing Act 2003 – a copy of which can be found here.
The Home Secretary has said that the bill aims to give local communities greater control over licensing ‘as the government moves to reclaim high streets for sensible law abiding drinkers’.
Detailed below are some of the main changes the Bill would make:
- Currently only those people who live in close proximity to a premises that is applying for or renewing a license can comment on the application. This will be amended to allow anyone to comment on a licensing application, no matter where they live.
- Greater weight will also be given to health and policing concerns with health bodies such as Primary Care Trusts becoming a responsible authority.
- The government has committed to banning alcohol disorder zones and reviewing the alcohol mandatory code within 12 months of its introduction. The Bill also proposes to introduce a late-night levy to pay for extra policing. There is no mention of the size of the levy which will be left to local authorities. They can also decide if there should be exemptions or reductions for some venues, likely to be if they have Best Bar None of similar accreditation.
- Changes are proposed which would see the maximum fine for persistently selling alcohol to children double from £10,000 to £20,000 and the maximum closure period increase from 48 hours to 336 hours.
We would encourage students' unions to review their CSR strategies, as well as to continue to work with the local community, council, police and health bodies to ensure that students' unions remain ahead of the field in responsible retailing.
The government has also revealed its plans for alcohol tax reform this week, in an effort of decrease the level of harm associated with problem consumption of alcohol such as alcohol related hospital admissions and violent crimes. A change to the definition of cider has already been made to increase the duty on cheap, strong ciders strongly associated with public health concerns, and the Government intends to introduce a new additional duty on beers over 7.5% abv in strength. Changes will also be made to introduce a reduced rate of duty on beers produced at an alcohol strength of 2.8% or below to encourage production and consumption of lower strength beers.
The Government's proposals for tax reform have been criticised for not pushing hard enough on supermarkets taking more responsibility for their pricing strategy. Whilst the Government has indicated that it wants to ban below cost selling, the methodology behind this has not been revealed.
More information can be found on the links below:
Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Impact assessment for the alcohol measures in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill
Review of Alcohol Taxation
Healthy Lives, Healthy People
NUS response to 'Rebalancing the Licensing Act'