Personal licences: Should they be scrapped?

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags License Government

Last orders? The Government is contemplating whether to enable targeted, local alternatives to personal licences
Last orders? The Government is contemplating whether to enable targeted, local alternatives to personal licences
The Government has this month launched a consultation into whether personal licences should be abolished, enabling licensing authorities to apply relevant conditions to premises licences where appropriate. 

But should such licences be abolished? How would it impact the trade, licensing authorities, residents’ groups and health organisations? BigHospitality has heard from a number of key industry bodies about their views on the matter.

Our sister title the Publican’s Morning Advertiser (PMA) first covered the news of the consolation last Friday, with the Minister of State for Crime Prevention Jeremy Browne claiming that, among other benefits, the move could save businesses around £10m a year.

Responses to the Alcohol Strategy consultation​suggested that the system of personal licences may not always be the most efficient and effective way of tackling crime and disorder,” wrote Browne in his ministerial foreword. “Its cost to businesses – in application fees, training and criminal records checks – is significant. And yet it applies to everyone in the same way, regardless of local circumstance or risk.

“We have already announced that we will reform the system by removing the requirement to renew them. However, we believe that there may be a way to further enable better and more targeted alternatives to the system as a whole.”

Impact assessment

The current system of personal licences requires that all alcohol sales be made or authorised by a personal licence holder. At the same time, the Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) in relation to licensed premises must hold a personal licence.

The Government believes this system has its weaknesses, arguing that the system may not be effective in ensuring responsible sales and tackling crime and disorder. It also points out that the system is not targeted - it is a national, blanket requirement. All premises must comply with it, incurring significant costs in training, application fees and criminal records checks as a result.

By scrapping personal licences in favour of the ‘local alternative’, the Government believes it could maintain, and even strengthen, the existing legislation in two key ways.

First, by keeping the national benchmarks for training and criminal records checks. And secondly, by strengthening the existing legislation in several areas. Requiring all alcohol sales to be made or authorised by the DPS, rather than a personal licence holder, for example. And working with training providers to ensure that training certificates can be provided in a readily available and easily recognisable form.

Mixed response

However, while unanimously agreeing that the current system needs a review for these reasons, the pub industry’s views over entirely scrapping personal licences seem mixed. The initial story by the PMA has generated a great deal of opinion.​John Ellis of the Crown Inn at Oakengates left the following comment on the PMA’s forum, questioning the Government’s proposals.


Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director for the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, adds the introduction of personal licences has been ‘one of the big success stories of the Licensing Act’.

“It has resulted in over half a million people obtaining a nationally-recognised qualification which has formed the basis for sustained investment in our people, our training and our career structure,” Nicholls told BigHospitality. “We would not want to undermine any of this.

“While it is right that the system needs a review to reduce red tape and make it fit for modern retailing needs, we remain to be convinced that a locally imposed alternative will deliver this. We will be working through the implications operationally and commercially with members to input into the development of policy.”

Brigid Simmonds, the chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, added: “We welcome the recognition from the Minister that local pubs play a positive role in communities and drive growth. We support the Government’s intention to free up responsible pub businesses and reduce costs, and we will be looking at these proposals in detail and discuss their potential impact with our members.”

Your Opinion: Readers' Poll

Should personal licences be scrapped? Would locally-imposed alternatives help to reduce red tape and save the industry money? Or perhaps you think there are other areas the Government should be looking at instead. Cast your vote in our Readers' Poll and leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts. 


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