Don Foster MP*


Commenting on today's much delayed publication of Draft Guidance on the new Licensing Act, Don said:

"In January the Government dismissed fears that their timetable on licensing was over-optimistic. Now it is clear that there is to be further delay and confusion.

"Two months on, the whole process has been flung into reverse. Far from implementing the Act in January 2005, July 2005 now appears the earliest likely start date.

Main Image"Before the last general election, this Government texted "cdnt give a xxxx 4 lst ordrs? Vote labour on thrsdy 4 xtra time" to voters. How much extra time does this Government need to get its act in order?

"It seems increasingly obvious that this Government couldn't give a XXXX about the disorder and chaos caused by the Licensing Act."


Notes to Editors

1. The background note to the draft guidance on the Licensing Act published today, shows that the transition process cannot be complete before July 2005. It says:

"During the six months following the issue of the Guidance, licensing authorities will prepare, consult on and publish their statements of licensing policy. At the end of the period will be the "first appointed day" which marks the beginning of the transitional period. During the transitional period, which will last for approximately nine months, applications may seek to convert their existing licenses into new ones..." Even if Parliament approves the guidance at the earliest opportunity - in April - the "first named day" will not be until October 2004, and the whole process of transition will not therefore end until July 2005.

2. Only this January, Minister Richard Caborn insisted the timetable was "very clear" and said the transition process would be over in January 2005.

Claire Ward (Watford) (Lab): Further to my right hon. Friend's reply, may I impress on him the need for certainty in respect of the timetable for implementing the regulations? I have received representations from my local authority, which is in the process of setting its council budgets and wishes to be certain about any impact that may result from this legislation. It therefore needs to be sure about the timing of those implications on the budget.

Mr. Caborn: That timetable is laid down very clearly in the Act. As I have said, as soon as both Houses approve the regulations, that kicks off the timetable, which will be six months. The first appointed day will be in July this year and the implementation period will end six months after that in the spring of 2005. The timetable is very clear. Local authorities have some concerns, but if they refer to the Act they will see that the timetable for implementation kicks in as soon as both Houses have agreed to the regulations. That is very clear.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I suspect that the House will be surprised by the Minister's complacency about the timetable for implementing the Act. He has just told the House that he expects the first named day to be in June or July, so how does he expect the industry and local authorities to prepare in time for that date when, as we have heard, the guidance has not yet been published or approved, when the secondary legislation has not yet been agreed, when no agreement on the fee structure has been reached with local authorities, when we have not seen the draft forms that will be provided to local authorities for the operational plans, when we have not agreed on the set-up fees and, above all, when the Department has agreed that it will drive forward the plans for a central database but has not yet started to do so?

Mr. Caborn: I go back to the original question, which concerned the consultation on the regulations that has been under way since August or September, involving dialogue not just with the local authorities but with all those who will be affected by the Act, and we shall come back to the House with their comments. The timetable is clear in the Act and it has been debated ad nauseam in Committee. Rather than the picture painted by the hon. Gentleman, the reality, according to the Local Government Association, is that many local authorities are already preparing to implement the Act. They are obviously far ahead of many hon. Members who represent them.

[Official Record, 5 Jan 2004, col. 7-8]

This article published: 23/03/2024

Published by Bath Liberal Democrats, 31 James St West, Bath, BA1 2BT. Printed and hosted by JPC Infonet, 2 St Georges Works, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8AA. Your Privacy._blank

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