The new Coalition Government has published its programme for government. Included within that programme are several measures specifically aimed at the licensed trade. The proposals are:
- Banning the sale of alcohol below cost price.
- Reviewing alcohol tax and pricing to ensure it tackles binge drinking without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers, pubs and important local industries.
- Overhauling the Licensing Act to give local authorities and police stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to, any premises that are causing problems.
- Allowing Councils and police to shut down permanently any shop or bar found to be persistently selling alcohol to children.
- Doubling the maximum fine for under-age alcohol sales to £20,000.
- Permission for local Councils to charge more for late-night licences to pay for additional policing.
- Cutting red tape to encourage the performance of more live music.
There is no timetable for implementation of these measures and it is perhaps unlikely to happen until after the ‘urgent’ action on the economy that is reportedly required.
On 25 May 2010 shortly after the Coalition Government’s proposals were announced, the Queen revealed in her Speech that a Bill, entitled the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, will be introduced. This Bill intends to make the police service more accountable to local people and to tackle alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour. It will incorporate all of the Coalition Government’s proposals as set out above and create a dedicated Border Police Force.
It is clear that the new Government do have licensing squarely on the Agenda, particularly when the programme is viewed in the light of comments from the new Home Secretary, Theresa May, to the Police Federation Conference. Ms May told the Conference that she will be reviewing the licensing system and indeed had always been opposed to the changes to the Regime the previous government introduced, leading many ‘red-top’ newspapers to claim there will be a “Ban on 24 Hour Boozing”.
The Government also plans to introduce new powers to give communities an opportunity to buy the “last pub in the village” under the proposed Localism Bill. The policies also aim to give communities a greater input on planning applications and allow local residents to appeal decisions made.