The Government’s draft code of practice on Powers of Entry comes into force at some point later this year but as yet there is no detail on when this might happen.
The draft code was published in January 2013 and the Government is currently analysing responses to the consultation. The code provides guidance to regulatory officers on the considerations that apply before, during and after powers of entry. The aim is to ensure greater consistency in the exercise of powers of entry and greater clarity for those affected by their use.
The code provides that reasonable notice (usually not less than 48 hours) should be provided to the premises occupier where it is practicable to do so, unless pre-notification would defeat the purposes of the inspection. The code also states that the number of inspectors should be “reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances” and for the timing of inspections to be at “reasonable hours”.
The code has been drafted in a relatively balanced tone but there is some industry concern about the lack of detail, particularly around the definition of “reasonable” and the timings of inspections. For example, if a manager is required to deal with an unannounced inspection at a particularly busy trading period, this could have the unintended consequence of negatively impacting on the licensing objectives.
It is hoped that the Government will take into account industry feedback in the final version of the code and that it will help ensure consistency in approach across the many regulatory bodies which inspect licensed premises such as the police, environmental health, trading standards, food safety and licensing authorities.
The interpretation and enforcement of the code should also be in line with the statutory Regulators’ Code that recently came into force on 6th April 2014. This requires regulators to carry out their functions in a way that supports those they regulate to comply and grow, take an evidence based approach to determining the priority risks in their area and ensure their approach to regulatory activities is transparent.