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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 16:38 GMT
Fears for children in pub reforms
Pub scene
Will children be in pubs and clubs round the clock?
Children could end up in lap dancing pubs and clubs under plans to reform licensing laws, the government is being warned.

Tory peer Baroness Buscombe told the House of Lords plans to make pubs more family-friendly might lead to children being allowed into licensed premises without adult supervision at any time.

She made the claim as a Lords committee debated the new Licensing Bill.

Baroness Buscombe
The Tory peer wants children protected
Ministers have been urged to publish guidance to councils, who will take over licensing powers from magistrates, on how best to protect children from harm.

Plans to relax licensing laws in England and Wales, which could mean pubs being allowed to open 24 hours a day, were unveiled in the Queen's Speech in November.

Relaxation of the current laws will be combined with new laws to combat disorder around pubs and bars.

Policing reforms

Baroness Buscombe warned of the consequences of relaxing the rules.

"Unfortunately a great many licensed premises are not the safe, family friendly pubs we would like.

"It is not necessary to talk in extremes about ten-year-olds in lap dancing clubs and 14-year-olds in a rough pub, unsupervised at 10pm on a Friday."

She questioned how the more flexible licensing laws would be policed.

And she called for more tightly drawn definitions, accusing the government of an extraordinary "casual" approach.

The Viscount of Falkland, for the Liberal Democrats, predicted the public would be concerned by the changes.

"How are young people going to be treated under this legislation?," he said.

Fears groundless

Liberal Democrat Lord Avebury said it was often hard for landlords to distinguish who was under-age.

"We really do need to know what the government's intentions are as far as protecting children from harm," he said.

Lord Davies of Oldham, for the government, said that under existing legislation and, at the discretion of the individual licensee, a child aged 14 or over could go in a pub or nightclub unsupervised and stay in the bar area, as long they did not consume alcohol, until 2100 GMT.

But few licensees had applied for certificates to allow children into their bar areas.

"Licensees are not going to increase their trade or please their patrons by giving unrestricted access to children over 14, still less to children younger than that."

Six separate licensing regimes will be amalgamated into a single system under the new legislation.

See also:

13 Nov 02 | Politics
18 Mar 02 | Politics
29 Apr 01 | Politics
21 Jul 98 | UK
25 Aug 99 | UK
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