Current Awareness: Sex Establishments (Regulation) Bill

Yet another Private Member’s Bill has been introduced seeking to amend licensing legislation – this time the regulation of sex establishments.

 

The Sex Establishments (Regulation) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 28 January 2014 under the Ten Minute Rule sponsored by Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North.

 

Officially the Bill aims to make provision for the statutory regulation of sex establishments, to amend the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, to require local authorities to adhere to the existing voluntary licensing framework for sex establishments and for connected purposes.

 

At the moment, Councils can choose whether it wants to adopt legislation permitting it to regulate sexual entertainment venues under the provisions of the Police and Crime Act 2009.  In practice this Bill will change this to “require all local authorities to adopt the full range of powers available to them”.

 

This Bill will also require local authorities to consult their local communities for their views on such premises.  Whilst there are already provisions in place to ensure local authorities do consult on policies and applications, this Bill seeks to take this further to enable better community engagement where, for example, a local authority has not adopted a specific policy or a weak one.

 

Diana Johnson commented, “The amendment to the law would assist local licensing committees. I want to contrast licensing authorities that give communities a strong voice over these establishments and have a clear policy with licensing decisions that are taken on an individual basis, which is still a proper and legal way of doing things. Let us take, for example, a local authority that has chosen to adopt the sexual entertainment venue powers, but has not issued a specific licensing statement. When that local authority then receives an application, it considers it on an individual basis. If communities want to assert themselves, individuals have to make specific objections. They have to show how that club will impact on their lives, and they need to relate it to vague licensing statements.

 

It is often difficult for a community collectively to argue about what such a venue means for their area or community. Indeed, considering such general concerns may render the authorities’ decision open to legal challenge, which can be expensive and off-putting. Adopting a clear licensing statement and a cap on the number of such venues negates the risk of a court challenge and both simplifies the process and ensures that the wider community is able to be clear and supported in what it wants its town or city to look like.

 

I am not seeking to impose some draconian new ban from Whitehall on any activity that is freely and legally participated in, or to restrict legitimate entertainment businesses. I merely want local people and councillors to have more power to resist the spread of sleaze in their neighbourhoods and for current best practice in local government to become universal.”