Select Committee on Deregulation First and Second Report


Guidance Note from the Home Office: the Committee's alternative text

[see paragraph 10 of the Second Report]


[Note: deletions from the original are struck through; additions are in bold]

1.  The Deregulation (Sunday Licensing) Order 2000 will come into effect on [ ]. Its main provisions are to amend the Licensing Act 1964 to extend to Sunday nights the powers of licensing justices to issue special hours certificates in respect of premises providing dancing, and extended hours orders in respect of licensed restaurants serving alcohol to accompany table meals and live entertainment; and to enlarge the equivalent powers of the magistrates' courts in respect of registered clubs and casinos. The effect of the Order is that the justices (or courts) may not authorise the sale of alcohol beyond 12:30am on Monday morning (later in the case of Mondays which are Bank Holidays, except Easter Monday).

Special Nature of Sundays

2.  In considering applications for special hours certificates and extended hours orders under the new arrangements the Order requires the justices and courts to have regard to the special nature of Sunday, and to any guidance on that subject issued by the Secretary of State. This note constitutes that offers guidance; on this point while they are accordingly bound to have regard to the content of this Note, although it is important also to note that it is wholly for the justices concerned to interpret the law as they judge right in the individual circumstances of each case before them, including the character and facilities of the licensed premises concerned and their location.

3.  In the Home Office's view While the special nature of Sunday owes little to derives from the fact that it is the main day of Christian worship, this is no longer, in the view of the Home Office, the sole or principal justification for treating Sundays as different from other days of the week. England and Wales are made up of multi-cultural and diverse communities in which many various different days of the week are held by different religious or ethnic groups to be sacred or special in some way; and in which there are also a substantial number of people who do not wish to differentiate one day from another on religious grounds at all. In any event, formal Christian worship is generally concluded well before the end of normal Sunday permitted hours (10:30pm), so it does not necessarily follow that the extension of those hours through special hours certificates or extended hours orders would have no material impact significantly intrude on religious services or on opportunities for participation in religious services.

4.  However, the concept of a day of rest, or of relative peace and quiet, is the common heritage of most of the major religions, even if they have inherited different days of the week to be so celebrated. Moreover, Sundays are also regarded by many people, by no means all Christians of all religions or none, as days in which more emphasis than usual should be placed on, or encouragement given to consider the benefits of, rest and relaxation, in preparation for the start of the next working week and in a family context where there is one.

5.  The extent of this should not be exaggerated, because for most leisure many purposes Sunday has become a day on which the public expect at least the same facilities as similar to those available on other days; and the provision of such facilities is often a normal commercial operation. Some people equate relaxation with rest. But for others the best form of relaxation may involves physical exercise or exertion - including dancing, as well as many sporting activities the commercial provision of which is already permitted. Subject to certain restrictions, it is open to shops to open on Sundays if they wish, and many do; so that Sunday is also now a day on which goods of all kinds as well as leisure services are may, for part of the day at least, be bought and sold. Sundays (especially Sunday evenings) are also seen in some parts of the leisure sector as days particularly suited to an older customer group, who do not need to work the following day.

6.  However, certain differences are maintained. Larger shops' opening hours on Sunday are restricted by law. In practice they do not usually open on Sunday evenings, which means that town centre streets tend to be quieter and less busy than at other times. And as a result of changes to the 1964 Act introduced by the Order, the sale of alcohol under special hours certificates and extended hours orders must normally end earlier on Sunday nights than on other days. The present law therefore maintains a limited but significant emphasis on opportunities for private rest and relaxation, and a reduced level of commercial activity, on Sunday nights, bearing in mind that many people do have to go to work the following morning, although working patterns are more varied than in the past, and that during term time Monday morning is also the start of the school week. The Order is not intended to effect a significant shift in that balance.

7.  In considering applications for special hours certificates and extended hours orders for Sunday nights, licensing justices are accordingly advised to bear in mind:

  • the nature of the area, including the extent of other leisure activities there at the times concerned;
  • the socio-economic composition of the area, including in particular the relative proportions of residential and commercial property;
  • the position of those living in the area who would prefer a relatively quiet Sunday evening as part of their preparations for work or study the following day, and who would not want to visit those premises or to be disturbed by those who do; and
  • the position of those living in the area for whom dancing on Sundays would might provide a valuable enlargement of leisure opportunities which might not in practice be readily available to them at other times.

December 2000

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