The Government has today announced that it will not be pursuing its controversial proposal to scrap personal alcohol licences.
When the issue was first raised as part of the Government's consultation into the wider alcohol strategy, it is fair to say that the industry was attracted to the removal of the personal licence system, which would have reduced the administrative burden and a significant cost from the industry.
This view quickly changed on the release of the Government's consultation in September last year entitled " Personal Alcohol Licences: Enabling Targeted, Local Alternatives" when it became clear that the system of personal licences would not simply be done away altogether.
The consultation proposal was that licensing authorities could be enabled to develop their own, more targeted alternatives to the personal licences system, imposing training conditions on those premises where it was appropriate to do so, but removing burdens where such conditions were not needed. The proposal envisaged retaining national accredited training courses so that licensing authorities had a common standard to refer to when imposing conditions.
Whilst the current system may have its flaws both in terms of the cost and the administrative burden that it places on the industry, what it does provide operators with, and particularly multi-site operators, is certainty as to what is required across the country, with skills and qualifications that are transferrable from one local authority area to another.
The proposals as laid out in the consultation document would have increased the financial and administrative burden on operators, and rather than reducing the red tape on businesses, it was very clear from the responses to the consultation that this burden would have increased. As the Government's response to the consultation highlights, "a common concern was that the proposal would lead to a variety of different local requirements and therefore uncertainty, whereas it was suggested that the existing training required by personal licence holders ensured that those responsible for authorising alcohol sales had been trained to a recognised standard."
Brigid Simmonds from the BBPP welcomed the announcement and, in acknowledging that the "Government has listened to the industry", added that "personal licences work well…they are important for the reputation of the industry and are needed as a nationally recognised qualification".
At a time when the sector is facing additional challenges, be it through EMRO's, the late night levy or the current consultation on locally set licensing fees, the Government in this instance is to be applauded in listening to the industry and scrapping these proposals which would have placed further burdens and uncertainty on them.
A copy of the Governments response can be found here.