Alcohol Licence Law APLH

Published on May 31st, 2012 | by Dean Carr


NCPLH or APLH – which certificate is current?

On 1 April 2011, the Award for Personal Licence Holders (APLH) level 2 came into force as the mandatory qualification for personal licence applicants. Since then, there has been some confusion within the hospitality industry about the status of the old NCPLH qualification, while training providers continue to advertise “NCPLH” courses.

Out with the old and in with the new:

The APLH was brought in to replace the old licensing qualification, the National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders (NCPLH) level 2. It covers the fundamental points on licensed retail and responsible alcohol retailing seen in the old qualification, while focusing in on recent changes to the Licensing Act 2003; notably, the prevention of underage sales and challenge 25 policies. From 1 April 2011, the NCPLH ceased to be a valid format of training and examination, and the APLH became the mandatory format in England and Wales.

What about my old certificate?

The NCPLH is still a valid licensing qualification, and is applicable to a Licensing Authority for a personal licence application. Nevertheless, the rate of changes to the Licensing Act has been steady since its introduction in August 2005, with updates announced as recently as April 2012 and May 2012. The best advice is to sit an up-to-date APLH course prior to your personal licence application procedure if your old certificate is more than six months old- even more so if you sat your exam several years ago and have not yet applied for your licence.

Licence renewal

The above points raise concerns about licence renewal under the Licensing Act 2003, which came into force in 2005. A personal licence is valid for 10 years and the first wave of renewal’s will be in 2015- surely all personal licence holders will need updating on any changes in the law? In Scotland, a mandatory training refresher course is required after 5 years.

Differences between the two tests:

The 40 question NCPLH became well known for two things: firstly, you had to get the first ten questions right in order to pass; secondly, the remaining 30 questions were noticeably easier to answer than the first ten. The APLH format has done away with all that- an overall percentage is required in order to pass. Take a look at this APLH mock quiz for a flavour of the new exam!

What about Scotland?

The Scottish Certificate for Personal Licence Holders (SCPLH) level 5 was brought in to replace the Scottish licensing regime and came in to force in September 2009. The SCPLH is applicable for Scottish personal licence applicants- aside from this, the rules above are the similar in Scotland. The Scottish licensing Act is known as; The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. The Scottish Act has also change since it conception and best advice would be to take a recent and up to date course if you gained your qualification back in 2009/2010.


It is still common in the hospitality industry in England & Wales for staff to refer to the NCPLH; indeed, the term remains more commonplace than the APLH. Training providers continue to advertise “NCPLH” courses, although the course that they deliver will be the APLH Level 2 qualification.

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About the Author

Dean Carr

Dean has been involved in alcohol licensing for over 20 years and has helped many independent retailers and corporate clients obtain a licence to sell alcohol or offer late night refreshment, regulated entertainment from all sorts of premises. Dean writes articles for various trade related blogs and is currently Managing Director of the PLT group of companies who run APLH and SCPLH personal alcohol licence courses nationwide. You can contact Dean or a member of his expert licensing team on: 01242 222 188

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