Select Committee on Deregulation and Regulatory Reform First Report


The Deregulation and Regulatory Reform Committee has agreed to the following Report:--



1. On 28 June 2001 the Government laid before Parliament the proposal for the Regulatory Reform (Special Occasions Licensing) Order 2001 in the form of a draft of the Order and an Explanatory Memorandum from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

2. The proposed Regulatory Reform Order would amend the Licensing Act 1964 ("the 1964 Act") to allow on­licensed premises and registered clubs to sell alcohol throughout the night on New Year's Eve this year. This would amount to a 12 hour extension in permitted hours allowing uninterrupted opening from the start of permitted hours on New Year's Eve (11a.m) to the end of permitted hours on New Year's Day (11 p.m.).

3. The House has instructed us to examine the proposal against the criteria specified in Standing Order No. 141(6) and then, in the light of that examination, to report whether the Government should proceed, whether amendments should be made, or whether the Order should not be made.[4]

4. We have concluded that the proposals should be amended before a draft Order is laid before the House. The amendments we propose relate chiefly not to the substance of the current Order, but rather to its possible effect on the Government's ability to bring forward further Regulatory Reform Orders relating to reform of licensing hours, which the Government has stated is its eventual aim.[5] However, we also have serious concerns about the timing of this proposal. Whilst we have concluded that those concerns are not sufficient to justify the rejection of the Order, nevertheless the mishandling of the procedure by the Department concerned meant that what should have been a straightforward decision was, in the event, extremely difficult, and has caused both this Committee and, more importantly, licensees and those living near licensed premises, much unnecessary inconvenience and uncertainty.

5. This is the first proposal to be brought forward under the revised regulatory reform procedure. We have high hopes for the procedure, through which we believe valuable reform of legislation can be effected without taking up scarce time on the floor of either House, whilst maintaining the necessary level of Parliamentary scrutiny. However, with this proposed Order it has got off to an inauspicious start. As the Home Office/DCMS have now discovered, the regulatory reform procedure is no "easy route" for ill-considered or badly handled proposals. Properly conducted, however, it provides an excellent opportunity to effect reforms which might not otherwise see the light of Parliamentary day. We look forward to being able to consider future regulatory reform proposals without the difficulties which have attended this one; and we trust that Departments which bring such proposals forward will enable that to happen.

6. Our detailed comments on matters arising from our consideration of the proposal against the criteria specified in the Standing Order are contained in the remainder of this Report. Where such a criterion does not appear in this Report, we have no concerns to raise under that heading.

4  Standing Order No. 141(2). Back

5  Appendix 2, paras 2, 3B4. Back

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Prepared 8 November 2001