Personal Licence Renewals – Deregulation may be too late

At a recent Institute of Licensing event, the Home Office has admitted that they may not be able to enact the necessary legislation in time to remove the need to renew personal licences.

The Government’s current proposals to remove the need to renew personal licences are set out in the Deregulation Bill.

Currently, section 115(1) of the Licensing Act 2003 states that a personal licence has effect for an initial period of ten years beginning with the date on which it is granted and may be renewed for further periods of ten years at a time.

Clause 54 (Personal licences: no requirement to renew) will amend section 115 so that personal licences “has effect indefinitely.”

The Problem

Section 117(6) of the Licensing Act 2003 states that “An application for renewal may be made only during the period of two months beginning three months before the time the licence would expire…”  So in effect personal licence holders will have to submit their renewals as early as three months in advance of the expiry of their licence.

The proposed commencement provisions for the Deregulation Bill (clause 90) currently states  that “The remaining provisions of this Act [including clause 54] come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.”  So clause 54 can only be enacted by way of a statutory instrument.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Deregulation Bill is itself yet to receive royal assent, the Home Office has confirmed that the statutory instrument necessary to enact clause 54 will be what is known as a negative instrument, which despite the name, is actually positive news because negative instruments become law without a debate or a vote (although may be annulled by a resolution of either House of Parliament). 

The Home Office presentation at the event predicted that clause 54 is likely to be in force by March/April 2015.  The immediate problem with this is that some personal licences were issued as early as February 2005 which, to comply with the requirements of Section 117(6) of the Licensing Act 2003, will require some personal licence holders to apply for a renewal of their licence as early as December 2014.

The Home Office is aware of the potential issue and although they said they are working to find a solution, they have not actually given any advice about what local authorities should do in this situation.  In the absence of any advice, but more importantly a change in law, local authorities (and personal licence holders) will be bound by the requirements of section 117(6).