Licensing law changes could rob pubs of legal rights

03 August 2010
Licensing law changes could rob pubs of legal rights

The Government's proposed overhaul of licensing laws could rob pubs of their basic legal rights, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has warned.

Last week Home Secretary Theresa May outlined plans to give local people greater powers to object to licensed premises if they felt they were a danger to public health or were turning the area into a "no-go" zone. The Government also set out plans to impose a levy on pubs with late-night licences.

But BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds (pictured) has written to May to ask her to reconsider the proposals.

In her letter, Simmonds said: "We fully support the principle of ensuring local communities have the powers they need to tackle anti-social behaviour.

"However, this should not and must not be at the price of removing fundamental legal protections that all businesses and citizens in this country have a right to enjoy.

"Whilst we fully support local authorities and the police in stamping out anti-social behaviour, the role of the courts in ruling when bad decisions are made by local authorities or the police is fundamental to ensuring due process is followed and the right checks and balances are in place. It is the bedrock of good governance.

"The proposals to remove these protections from pubs and other licensed businesses are likely to have unintended consequences.

"They place local authorities and the police in a position of absolute power, with little or no opportunity for re-dress.

"These proposals go well beyond the stated aim of re-balancing the Licensing Act. They are a fundamental re-drafting of this country's licensing laws.

"Government is in real danger of swinging the pendulum too far the other way and creating a system where legitimate law-abiding businesses that are an asset to their communities are denied a voice.

"The consultation proposes a considerable escalation in red-tape and costs for small businesses.

"It is difficult to see how many of these proposals sit comfortably with the Government's stated commitment not to penalise responsible drinkers or local pubs, remove regulation and promote business and the provision of private sector jobs.

"It is also noticeable that while these proposals contain many measures targeted at business they are totally silent on the issue of holding individuals responsible for their anti-social behaviour.

"We will be responding in detail to the consultation and are keen to play a constructive role in helping Government achieve its objectives, but I thought I should make you immediately aware of these fundamental concerns at the earliest opportunity."

The Government's consultation lasts for six weeks.

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By Neil Gerrard

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