Government Response to National Applicability of Licences
Following its consultation earlier this year on the possible national applicability of licences, the Government has now published its response.
The consultation was a result of EU concern over a potential violation by the UK of the EU Directive on Services in the Internal Market (2006/123/EC) which related to the national applicability of authorisations, or licences to provide services.
Having considered the responses the Government intends to introduce a form of mutual recognition for licenses granted in one part of the UK to be recognised in others but there will be important exceptions on the grounds of overriding public interest.
The Government recognised that it will not be practicable to extend the mutual recognition principle to smaller regions within the UK such as between District Councils in England. Consequently, the mutual recognition principle will be limited to the four principal parts of the UK, i.e. England and Wales to Scotland or Northern Ireland.
It further said that the changes will apply only to “personal” licences rather than licences that relate to specific premises and that it is for licensing authorities to determine which of the licences they issue fall into this category.
The Government recognised that authorities have the power to issue a wide variety of licences covering their geographical area and it would therefore have been impracticable for it to provide an exhaustive list of licences affected by the proposed changes. The pragmatic solution it proposed was to clearly indicate that only "Personal" or "Fit and proper person" licences will be affected by the proposals to introduce the mutual recognition principle.
On the issue of a national database for personal licences, the Government has said it does not propose to set up such a database because it would probably be expensive to implement, would require a nationally competent body to administer it and would very likely fall out of date through receiving incomplete or inaccurate information.
The Next Steps
The Government intends to amend The Provision of Services Regulations 2009 by introducing a mutual recognition principle under which all licences issued by competent authorities whose function relate to either the entire UK or to one or more of the four main parts of it will be valid throughout the UK.
The Government had hoped to publish the draft amendments with this response but it became very clear that amending the Regulations will be complicated and take some time. This is because there are numerous different licensing and regulatory bodies in different areas of the UK. Many of these are governed by statutes which limit the geographical competence of the authority to a particular part of the UK. It is therefore likely that, in addition to introducing the mutual recognition principle, there will be consequential amendments to primary legislation.