Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Ninth Report


Deregulation (Sunday Dancing and Licensing) Order: Supplementary Memorandum

1.  This supplementary memorandum is provided at the request of the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. It sets out all the reservations and suggested amendments made

by local authority respondents to the Government's consultation paper. Many of them were addressed in the Explanatory Document that was laid in January with the draft Order. Where this is the case, a cross-reference is given to the relevant part of that document.

2.  Twenty authorities were concerned that the Government's proposals would lead to increased noise and nuisance to local residents (Barrow, Westminster, Daventry, Gateshead, Camden, Croydon, Redbridge, Medway, Mid Beds, Newcastle, North Warwickshire, Shepway, South Gloucestershire, South Lakeland, Suffolk Coastal, Surrey Heath, Tandridge, Neath, Hart and Watford).

Response: This point is addressed in paragraph 35 of the Explanatory Document. The Government believes that necessary protection against noise and nuisance would be provided through the existing and proposed new safeguards.

3.  Four authorities thought that the proposed 12.30am closing time was too late. They would prefer 11.30pm or 12 midnight (Westminster, Shepway, West Wiltshire and Tandridge).

Response: The Government believes that a 12.30 end time represents an appropriate balance between what would be commercially worthwhile for business and attractive to consumers, and what would offer necessary protection for local residents (paragraph 36 of the Explanatory Document). To achieve that balance, the Government deliberately recommended a less relaxed regime for Sundays. The latest time of closing normally permitted under a special hours certificate on other days is 2 a.m. in most of the country, and 3 a.m. in certain parts of London.

4.  Three authorities (Barrow, Neath and Suffolk Coastal) were concerned that the Government's proposals would cause extra demands on police resources.

Response: The Government believes that the additional protections contained in the draft Order should keep to a minimum any nuisance or disorder for the police to handle (paragraph 28).

5.  Four authorities suggested phasing-in the proposed changes over a three month period (South Gloucestershire, Newcastle Under Lyme, Sedgemoor and Tendring).

Response: A three month phased implementation is included in the draft Order (paragraph 42).

6.  Six authorities felt there would be additional costs to local authorities in dealing with applications to vary entertainment licences and in responding to increased noise complaints (Southwark, Medway, South Gloucestershire, Gateshead, Suffolk Coastal and Sedgemoor).

Response: BEDA estimates that many premises already hold entertainment licences which permit Sunday dancing, so the number of applications for variation might be less than anticipated by the local authorities. Where applications are necessary, this would only be for the first year and local authorities would be able to recover their costs through the application fee (paragraph 25).

With regard to increased noise complaints, the Government believes that the additional safeguards proposed should help keep noise problems to a minimum.

7.  Four authorities (Westminster, Sutton, Hart and Watford) were in favour of local authorities (or any person) being allowed to apply for a restriction preventing a special hours certificate from operating on a Sunday:

Response: Only allowing the police to apply for such a restriction in respect of the special hours certificate would be consistent with the existing arrangements for other days. Revocation action could still be prompted by residents and other individuals (paragraph 37), and the local authority can address problems arising in the context of the public entertainment.

In all cases involving dancing at on-licensed premises conditions, limitations and restrictions relating to the justices' on-licence, the public entertainment licence issued by the local authority, and the special hours certificate will be in force. In the case of the public entertainment licence, which is most likely to give rise to a condition on acceptable noise levels, the offence of breaching the condition would be punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 (and in London, up to 3 months in prison). The prosecuting authority in respect of breaches of public entertainment licence conditions is the local authority. Local residents are free to bring such breaches to the attention of the local authority, which can use information from any source to form a basis of a prosecution. Conviction following prosecution can lead to revocation of the public entertainment licence and consequentially the special hours certificate. In view of the criminal nature of breaches of conditions and restrictions, the Government's view is that the police (in respect of the special hours certificate) and the local authority (in respect of the public entertainment licence) are best placed to consider the evidence involved, to investigate further if necessary, and to decide appropriate action.

8.  Newcastle City Council wanted further clarification of the "special nature of Sunday".

Response: Guidance on this point is given in paragraph 39 of the Explanatory Document.

9.  London Borough of Redbridge felt that the measures for protecting residents needed to be "linked with strong policy statements in conjunction with the licensing of music and dancing".

Response: The Government would certainly encourage licensing justices' to develop their policies in consultation with local authorities responsible for the related music and dancing licences. However, the Executive cannot bind the judiciary who are ultimately charged in law with considering applications on their individual merits.

10.  North Warwickshire Borough Council wanted protection for staff who do not want to work on Sundays.

Response: The Government is satisfied that existing legislation and the BEDA code of practice will provide sufficient protection for workers (paragraph 38).

11.  North Wales Association of Town Councils wanted a provision included that enabled the automatic revocation of a licence when problems at certain premises arise.

Response: The Government believes that the existing and proposed safeguards would be adequate to allow the police, licensing justices and local authorities control any problem premises. It does not believe that automatic revocation would be necessary. In addition, given that the livelihoods of those owning and working at the premises are at stake, it is proper that they should hear the charges brought against them and have an opportunity to respond at a hearing before any final decision is made to revoke a licence or a certificate.

12.  Bedford Borough Council did not support the proposals because there is no power for them to vary public entertainment licences once they have been granted, other than at the request of the licensee.

Response: Variation of the public entertainment licence is not a relevant consideration. Any necessary variation or limitation of the special hours certificate would meet any concerns arising from the operation of the draft Order. Such limitations could be sought by the police under the terms of the draft Order. Furthermore any person may object to any variation of a special hours certificate, and this would include a local resident or a representative of the local authority.

13.  Staffordshire Moorlands District Council were opposed on the grounds that Sunday should be kept as a 'special day'.

Response: The Government recognises that some people still consider Sunday a special day, and is therefore proposing a less relaxed licensing regime for Sundays than exists for other days (paragraph 33 and the response at paragraph 3 above).

14.  Warwick District Council asked that consideration be given to transferring liquor licensing from magistrates' to local authorities. Bexley Council wanted all licensing applications handled by one licensing authority.

Response: The Government will be addressing this issue in its forthcoming White Paper on licensing reform.

15.  West Wiltshire District Council asked for an explanation of the term 'ancillary' in the context of providing substantial refreshment in order to qualify for a special hours certificate. They suggested that a definition might specify the number of tables and seats, the scope of the menu and the percentage of diners.

Response: The Government is not proposing to use the draft Order to specify such issues. The requirement that the sale of alcohol under a special hours certificate must be ancillary to the provision of music and dancing and substantial refreshment relates equally to all days of the week and is not specific to Sundays. Extensive case law and precedent on this long-standing part of the licensing laws explains the legal interpretation of the term, and currently guides and is binding on the licensing justices. Much depends on the particular circumstances in each individual case, and the Government does not consider it necessary for the draft Order to be specific on these matters.

16.  West Wiltshire District Council also asked for clarification of what is meant by 'the power to exclude Sundays on the grounds of disturbance'. They suggested that this might specify noise from music, customers shouting, the use of cars and horns and the number of complaints.

Response: The Government is not proposing to use the draft Order to specify such issues. What constitutes a disturbance will vary from case to case and will depend on local circumstances, not least in respect of the density of the residential population in the vicinity.

Home Office

13 March 2000


 
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