Is Abolishing Personal Licenses a Good Thing?

Posted: Wednesday, 23 October 2013 @ 16:05

The government has launched a consultation on abolishing Personal Licenses. The consultation is running from 12 September to 7 November 2013.

Now I am all for getting red of red tape, but is this a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

So what is proposed?

1. Personal Licenses will be abolished
2. All alcohol sales to be made or authorised by a Designated Premises Supervisor
3. No one will be required to provide a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check, but Licensing Authorities can require by an endorsement of a condition on the Premises Licence that CRB checks to be provided with any application for a new DPS
4. Give Police greater powers to oppose a DPS appointment
5. National benchmarks for training and CRB checks to be retained
6. Certificates of Training to be available for inspection at the premises

When the last government were forging the new legislation at the start of the “noughties”, they did propose a system based purely on a premises licence. The police were concerned because they feared it would be difficult to identify who was in charge at any given premises where alcohol was sold. They were so used to looking at the name over the door! Odd when it would be clear who held the Premises Licence and therefore who should be contacted.

And so was born the Designated Premises Supervisor. A totally unnecessary creation. The Licensing Act 2003 provided that a DPS must hold a Personal Licence. But oddly it did not define any duties or obligations of the DPS. And the Personal Licence system was evolved with a necessary qualification, save for those who automatically qualified in 2005 under the provision of so-called “grandfather rights” as they held a Justices’ Licence at the relevant time.

Although the need for a DPS was questionable, the creation of a nationally recognised qualification system was seen as a very good thing for the trade. It replaced a system which varied widely from region to region, with hugely varying standards. It created a demand for a national network of training organisations. It also provided a benchmark for those entering the trade. Like the door staff qualifications in the security industry, it ensured an instantly recognisable national standard, and with the DPS holding a Personal Licence also ensured that at least one person involved with a premises selling alcohol had received training on the full extent of the Licensing Act and relevant issues with the sale and consumption of alcohol.

The problem with the government proposal is that it will herald a return to the dark ages. Yes it will certainly get rid of red tape at the outset, but in my opinion it will create a new local layer of red tape, with the same local variations which existed under the old licensing regime. Let us not forget that getting rid of those variations was a principle aim of the new system! With such a free for all there will undoubtedly be an explosion of new local red tape to replace the old national system. I do not believe that ultimately the government’s proposal will achieve their desired effect of getting rid of unnecessary red tape. For me it is better the devil you know.

I fear that the government are targeting the wrong set of red tape. Why do they not just get rid of the DPS? That would be a far more cost effective way of streamlining the system whilst ensuring that there is a national system of training behind a national system of Personal Licences. Clarity with benchmarking is the way to tackle the issues facing the trade.

Nigel Musgrove
Licensing Law
Tel: 0845 003 5639

For free advice on this topic please call us on 0845 003 5639.

This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.


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