The Home Office has launched a consultation proposing the abolition of personal licences to sell alcohol. Currently, all alcohol sales must be authorised by a personal licence holder who holds an accreditation and has undergone a criminal records check. In the impact assessment for this policy, the Home Office describe personal licences as an ‘unnecessary administrative burden’ and state their abolition is intended to ‘generate economic growth’.
Alcohol Research UK is concerned that this proposal removes key safeguards without first establishing an evidence base. We are not aware of any research which demonstrates that abolishing statutory training will improve responsible retailing practice, nor that removing the universal requirement for criminal record checks will improve security or safety in the industry. Therefore, it is not clear how abolishing personal licences will make alcohol retail safer, better regulated or more socially responsible.
The abolition of personal licences was not discussed in the Government’s 2012 Alcohol Strategy. According to the new impact assessment, it is now being proposed on the grounds that it was ‘suggested by some respondents’ to the Alcohol Strategy consultation. We would hope for greater transparency as regards the genesis of this policy.
It is reasonable that business seeks fewer regulatory controls; however, it is also essential that fundamental changes to licensing principles are supported by strong evidence, particularly as regards public safety. We would, therefore, urge the Government to provide more evidence on these aspects before proceeding.
The consultation closes on 7th November 2013