Reply from the Home Office|
1. Thank you for your letter of 20 January about
the Government's proposal for a draft Deregulation (Sunday Dancing
and Licensing) Order 2000.
2. The Home Office is ready to provide any written
and/or oral evidence which the Committee may require. As requested,
I have set out below further explanation of the points made in
paragraph 37 of the explanatory memorandum concerning the absence
of a right for local residents to seek revocation of a special
3. The proposal in respect of Sundays is a reflection
of the general statutory scheme for special hours certificates
set out in the Licensing Act 1964. For what appear to be good
reasons, the existing scheme adopts different approaches to grant
and revocation. The law gives the licensing justices a broad discretion
to refuse an application for a special hours certificate on grounds
that could include issues such as the potential impact on crime,
disorder, noise, nuisance and disturbance in a particular locality.
Information on these issues may come from any source, including
local residents. This would be under-scored in the current proposal
by adding the requirement for the justices to address specifically
the special nature of Sunday. The system is essentially proactive
in attempting to ensure that potential problems do not arise at
4. Where a certificate has been successfully obtained
the situation changes. A business may begin to develop in new
ways and this can involve substantial investment. In order to
provide business with some degree of certainty once a certificate
has been granted, Parliament decided that the certificate should
not be taken away or restricted easily, unless there was evidence
of disorderly or indecent conduct on the premises. The 1964 Act
identifies the police as the appropriate body responsible for
bringing these matters to the attention of the licensing justices.
In keeping with the concept of Sunday as a special day, the proposal
before the Committee broadens the grounds on which revocation
can be sought by the police (in respect of certificates relating
to Sunday) to include disturbance or annoyance to local residents.
Where revocation is an issue the police will be able to act as
a filter for vexatious or frivolous complaints, and are best placed
to take an objective view of whether unreasonable or unlawful
behaviour is causing disturbance and annoyance in the locality.
5. Notwithstanding this approach, it is also important
to consider the special hours certificate in the context of the
general licensing scheme described in the 1964 Act. In addressing
the question of necessary public protection, a key point is that
a special hours certificate can only be granted in respect of
- licensed under the 1964 Act, i.e. holding a justices'
- holding a public entertainment licence granted
by the local authority for music and dancing; or
- a licence to operate as a casino.
6. This brings into play public protections associated
with those licence schemes. These licences are renewable on regular
bases. Any person may oppose renewal of these licences, for example,
on grounds of excessive noise, nuisance or disturbance caused
within a neighbourhood. Such objections could relate to hours
at which the special hours certificate was the authority for trading.
If either the justices' on-licence or the local authority licence
permitting music and dancing or the Gaming Board's licence is
not renewed, the special hours certificate automatically becomes
invalid. This system therefore provides an important deterrent
to venues that allow excessive disturbance to any residents on
any day of the week. While we are not necessarily suggesting that
it is desirable for local residents to threaten the livelihood
of individuals in the hospitality and leisure industry because
of problems at particular hours on one day of the week, the possibility
of jeopardising renewal of the main trading licences has an important
deterrent value that is beneficial to Sundays as well as other
7. We therefore consider that providing local residents
with a right similar to that of the police to seek revocation
a special hours certificate is unnecessary and undesirable. The
existing scheme appears to balance successfully the need for the
involvement of public residents before any permission is granted
and for the police to move swiftly to counter disorder with the
need for some degree of certainty to allow proper business planning.
We therefore consider that it should be the starting point for
the model adopted for Sundays. By giving weight to the special
nature of Sunday, and affording the police wider powers to seek
revocation in respect of that day, the proposal modifies the model
sufficiently to provide proper public protection.
8. The Committee question why a different approach
was taken to public protection in the draft Deregulation (New
Year Licensing) Order 1999. That proposal envisaged a change to
permitted hours at the New Year. In other words, there would be
no application process at all and licensed premises would automatically
be entitled to extended hours on the days in question. In order
to ensure proper public protection, it was therefore necessary
to include a process whereby local residents could, in advance
of the New Year, seek to restrict hours in respect of certain
premises. Our view is that the proposals are not inconsistent
in concept. In both cases, the Government has been seeking to
ensure that the system provides for the elimination of problems
before new trading arrangements come into place.
If any further clarification would be helpful, we
should be happy to provide it.
Andrew Englefield, Legislation Clerk
2 February 2000