Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Ninth Report

Reply from the Home Office to the Clerk

Thank you for your letter of 18 February about the proposed Deregulation (Sunday Dancing and Licensing) Order 2000.

You indicated that the Chairman would like to know (a) whether there is any equivalent law in England and Wales which provides for the making of bye-laws by the licensing authority to control noise after 11 pm on any day; and (b) whether licensing law permitted competent objectors to oppose the grant of a special hours certificate.

(a) powers to control noise and disturbance

Licensing authorities do not have the power to make byelaws in the context of liquor and public entertainment licensing laws. The position in England and Wales is that the licensing authorities control noise and disturbance by imposing conditions through other means than the use of byelaws.

Under the law of England and Wales, it is open to the local authority to prescribe any terms, conditions or restrictions on the grant or renewal of a public entertainment licence.[27] To qualify for a special hours certificate, premises licensed to sell and supply alcohol must already have a public entertainment licence which is renewable every twelve months or less. The local authority's discretion to impose terms, conditions and restrictions is unfettered. In practice, local authorities exercise their discretion to impose robust conditions for the purposes of preventing crime and disorder, assuring public safety and preventing public nuisance and disturbance. So, for example, it is common to find conditions attached to a public entertainment licence that require the premises to have adequate levels of soundproofing. It is a criminal offence to breach such a condition and conviction could lead to revocation of the licence (at which point, the special hours certificate would become invalid too). On conviction for such an offence, the court may impose a fine of up to £20,000 or up to six months imprisonment or both.

(b) the ability of competent objectors to oppose the grant or renewal of a special hours certificate

The Licensing (Special Hours Certificates) Rules 1982[28] (S.I. 1982 No. 1384), made under Section 91 of the Licensing Act 1964, govern the arrangements for grant and revocation of special hours certificates. Rule 3(1) - (1A) provides for the display and advertising of the application to people residing in the locality. Rule 3A provides for any person to lay grounds objecting to the grant of a new certificate or any variation of an existing one. Any person would naturally include any person or persons representing those bodies and groups specified in the Scottish legislation. The Licensing Act 1964 is silent as to what matters might properly be taken into account when considering the grant of or imposition of limitations on the certificate. The discretion of the licensing justices to consider and to take account of these objections is therefore again essentially unfettered. In considering the exercise of this discretion, the higher courts have provided guidance in the form of case-law and precedent. This has consistently confirmed that it is entirely proper for the licensing justices to take into account the risk of public disorder, or disturbance of or annoyance to residents in the neighbourhood of the premises.[29]

The Government therefore considers that the existing powers available to the local authority in respect of the public entertainment licence, and to the licensing justices in respect of the on-licence and special hours certificate, provide comprehensively for the protection of local residents like those in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea from undue noise, disturbance and annoyance. The process is also accessible and receptive to local residents who wish to raise objections to the grant of a certificate. The Government is proposing adding to these existing protections by requiring the licensing justices to take account of the "special nature of Sunday".

If any further clarification would be helpful, we should be happy to provide it.

29 February 2000

27   See paragraph 9(1) of Schedule 12 to the London Government Act 1963 and paragraph 11(1) of Schedule 1 to the Local Govt (Misc. Provisions) Act 1982. Back

28   As amended by the Licensing (Special Hours Certificates) (Amendment) Rules 1988, S.I. 1988 No. 1338 and the Licensing (Special Hours Certificates) (Amendment) Rules 1996, S.I. 1996 No. 978. Back

29   See, for example, Lidster v Owen [1983] 1 All ER 1012, [1983] 1 WLR 516. Back

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