Clause 14 - Authorised persons, interested persons and responsible authorities
Licensing Bill [Lords]
Dr Kim Howells (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Pontypridd, Labour)
There is nothing like history!
Clause 13 makes provision for the clarification of the relevant licensing authority in relation to an application for a premises licence. If those premises straddle more than one authority, only one authority is the relevant licensing authority under the clause. The other authority or authorities are afforded the status of the responsible authority, so that they can make representations about the licensing objectives to the relevant authority. The role of the other authority or authorities is not to determine the application. That is the responsibility of the relevant licensing authority, so
no dispute with the other authority or authorities and the relevant authority will arise. If the determination of the application does not uphold the representations made by the responsible authority, it will have a right of appeal to the magistrates court against the determination.
However, if a licensing authority can generate hearings whether or not the expert bodies and local residents are content, we will have opened the door to the old bureaucracy and red tape. We know that some—not all—local authorities could use the provision to generate hearings at which they would seek to vet applicants. They would revert to the old time wasting and subjective ''fit and proper'' test. If they did not like the applicant, they would immediately look for an excuse to reject the application. The deregulatory benefits of the Bill to industry could be swept away in some parts of the country if such authorities vetted everyone to find one bad apple. That is the old way.
The new way will focus on likely problem premises and target resources there. If the operating schedule is likely to generate problems, interested parties and responsible authorities could be expected to intervene. People not likely to cause problems in relation to the licensing objectives could be left to get on with their business. For two important reasons that I have set out—fairness and a desire to reduce red tape—I ask the Committee to welcome this group of Government amendments.