Caroline Matthews: Insights on Licensing Act 2003 and New Reforms

The House of Lords Select Committee report on 10 years of the Licensing Act 2003 has today been published. The Committee was established last May and has produced a detailed report running to 186 pages, its main recommendations are set out below.

In the 10 years since the new Licensing Act came into force the much vaunted “cafe culture” that we were all promised has failed to materialise. The Committee, chaired by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, recognised that pubs,  clubs and live music venues are a vital part of  our local communities,  but it considers that the licensing system is not working and is in need of a “radical, comprehensive overhaul”. The Committee considers that the Government fundamentally  erred in giving the responsibility for the licensing function to local licensing committees.


There should be a trial merger between licensing and planning committees, with the process being piloted in a few selected areas as soon as possible. This would not be a merger of licensing and planning law, but councillors sitting on planning committees should use their procedures and systems and support to deal with licensing matters.

In the meantime licensing and planning functions within local authorities should begin to be coordinated  immediately.

Licensing appeals that currently go to the magistrates courts should instead be dealt with by the planning inspectorate.

Pricing and taxation (including the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing) should be considered as effective tools to reduce excessive alcohol consumption

The role and makeup of licensing committees should be overhauled  and Home Office Guidance amended to clarify their responsibilities, procedures and function. A minimum training requirement for councillors and police should be considered.

Late Night Levies do not appear to have achieved their objectives, principally to cover the costs of additional policing, and consideration should be given to abolishing them

Licensing fees should be set locally, rather than nationally.

Licensing premises in airports should all come within the licensing regime (currently there is no requirement to licence premises “airside”)

To read the full report click here to download the PDF. If you have any further questions about the significance of the report speak to our licensing specialist Caroline Matthews.

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