Examination of Witnesses (Questions 115
TUESDAY 28 OCTOBER 2008
SIMMONDS OBE, MR
Q115 Chairman: Good morning and welcome
to this, which is the second session of the Committee's inquiry
into the Licensing Act 2003. We have three parts in this morning's
session and for our first part I would like to welcome Brigid
Simmonds, who is the Chairman of the Central Council of Physical
Recreation; Kevin Smyth, the Secretary of the Committee of Registered
Club Associations. Barry Slasberg, which club do you represent?
Mr Slasberg: Kingsley Park Working
Men's Club, Northampton.
Chairman: Just before we start I think
there are a number of declarations. I would like to put on the
record that I am Vice President of the Maldon Cricket Club, which
does gain some of its income from the sale of alcohol.
Mr Evans: I am President of the Clitheroe
Paul Farrelly: I am an Honorary Vice
President of the Finchley Rugby Club and Secretary of the Commons
and Lords rugby team, the latter of which profits out of absolutely
Mr Evans: I am also Vice Chairman of
the All Party Beer Group.
Q116 Chairman: Perhaps we could start
with the general principles underlying the Act. It was intended
that the Act would deliver a streamlined procedure, clearer objectives
and greater democracy. Do you consider that it has achieved those
objectives in terms of your own experience?
Mrs Simmonds: It has probably
achieved those objectives overall. I think it would be difficult
to argue objectively that having more local democracy and more
involvement with the community was not a good thing; but if you
had a licence which only cost £16 and could last for up to
10 years and you are now paying the sort of fees that we are paying
it would be difficult to think that this is a streamlined system
which is better. If you look at the licensing objectives of crime
and disorder, public safety, public nuisance and protecting children
from harm, sports clubs do not contribute to any of those. In
fact you could almost argue the opposite, that sports clubs provide
an antidote to crime and disorder.
Mr Smyth: I virtually agree entirely
with Brigid. It was something that we never really wanted at working
men's clubs and sports clubs. You cannot argue with the basic
idea of why it was wanted but the actual benefit as far as clubs
go has been minute and the costs have been horrendous.
Mr Slasberg: I would just add
to that that as far as my club is concerned all those objectives
have been the objectives of our club since time immemorial; we
were formed over 100 years ago and we have a very comprehensive
disciplinary system which ensures that our members are responsible
both within the premises and outside the premisesalways
have done. This adds nothing but we fully concur with all the
aims of the Act, which we are quite proud to have been practising
since before it was conceived.
Chairman: Perhaps we can go now to the
impact on your own specific clubs, and if Nigel could begin.
Q117 Mr Evans: Is the general view
that you are opposed to this new licensing regime because we are
where we are and that is basically the fact. It clearly has a
cost to it, which is much higher than the old cost. So, taking
the view that we are where we are, do you think it is right that
the full costs ought to be met by those who have the licences?
Mrs Simmonds: I think the full
costs should be met by the licences but I think it was the LGA
who said in your evidence session a week or so ago that what is
happening is that the smaller premises, the community premises
are effectively subsidising the larger clubs. If you look at the
ongoing annual fee, you are talking here about paying, if you
are in category B, £295 a year. If you are not on the risk
register, you are not renewing your licence, the licence goes
on in perpetuity, so what are you paying all that money for on
an annual basis as a club where you are not causing nuisance and
you are not creating crime and disorder? We just do not have those
sorts of problems. So you are paying this ongoing annual fee and
more fees if you want to make a variation to your licence for
really almost nothing in return, and one has to question why that
is the case, which is why the CCPR has argued quite comprehensively
that the clubs should pay at a much more minor level, effectively
as they do as CASCs, which is based on your 80% rate relief which
you get if you are a community amateur sports club.
Q118 Mr Evans: Would you think that
you would have to pay perhaps a bigger sum to initially get the
licence and then reduce the sum?
Mrs Simmonds: We are past that
stage, Nigel. You have the licenceeveryone has the licence;
they have been through transition and you do not on the whole
create many more new sports clubs. So we are now talking about
the ongoing burden of this annual fee that you pay on an annual
basis. We have argued all the way through that either we should
have all CASCs in category A, or that all clubs should actually
pay on the same basis that they get rate relief, which is 80%,
so they only pay 20% of the annual fee, which we think would be
a much fairer system.
Q119 Mr Evans: So you think all this
licence money that people have to pay on an annual basis is just
there to prop up the bureaucracy that is not doing much?
Mrs Simmonds: It would be difficult
to argue with that.