Fresh calls for review of laws

FRESH calls for Scottish licensing legislation to be reviewed and consolidated have been issued after scrutiny of England and Wales’ Act by a Lords committee found it to be “fundamentally flawed” and in need of a “major overhaul”.

• The Lords said the 2003 Act is “flawed”.

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 said it wants an end to the “frequent piecemeal changes” that have been made to the legislation in the 11 years since it came into force, and called for a “one-off radical overhaul”.

The committee said the government made a “substantial error” in placing the responsibility for licensing in England and Wales with local authority licensing committees, saying planning committees are “much more effective, reliable and well-equipped to make licensing decisions”; it also said that if minimum unit pricing is found to be lawful and “effective in cutting down excessive drinking” in Scotland, England and Wales should follow suit.

The Lords committee concluded that the England and Wales Act is “fundamentally flawed and needs a major overhaul”.
The review of licensing legislation down south has prompted fresh calls for similar scrutiny of the laws in Scotland.

The calls come after Glasgow licensing board clerk Mairi Millar, speaking at the last Scottish Licensing Law & Practice (SLLP) conference, called for a root and branch review of licensing legislation ahead of the tenth anniversary of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 coming in to force in 2019 (SLTN January 5, 2017); and similar calls from Scottish licensing lawyers, most recently reported in SLTN March 16, 2017.

SLTN legal columnist Jack Cummins, of Hill Brown Licensing, said a full review of the legislation is required.
“There needs to be similar scrutiny here,” said Cummins.

“When Mairi Millar called for a review at the SLLP conference there was widespread support for that, both at the conference and afterwards.

“The trade wants it, the people who advise the trade want it, the people who regulate the trade want it, the people who advise the people who regulate the trade want it so it is unsatisfactory that the Scottish Government is not listening.

“I think we look over the border with some envy that they are looking at the legislation and how it is working in practice.”
Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said: “If the lawyers are drowning in legislation, how can licence holders be expected to be au fait with it?

“There might be a danger that a review could lead to more regulations and that’s the last thing we need but if they can refine and consolidate things, that’s to be welcomed.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We always try to make sure legislation is not unduly burdensome and complicated. That is why the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 addressed parts of the law which were not operating as effectively as they could have been.

“The Scottish Government is currently focused on the implementation of a wide range of provisions within the 2015 Act. Going forward it would be for Scottish ministers to determine their priorities for future legislation taking account the full range of issues that Scotland faces.”