Page last updated at 03:40 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 04:40 UK

Tories urge curbs on lap-dancing

Dancer
There are now 300 lap-dancing clubs in the UK

The Conservatives would give communities more power to block the opening of lap-dancing clubs.

Councils should be able to decide whether such venues are appropriate for their area, said shadow women's minister Theresa May.

Licensing law puts lap-dancing clubs in the same category as pubs or coffee shops, giving residents less scope to oppose them than sex shops or cinemas.

The Tories have launched a three-month consultation on changing the rules.

The number of lap-dance clubs in the UK has risen to 300 since the first one opened in 1995.

'Overwhelmingly opposed'

Licensing Minister Gerry Sutcliffe last month wrote to all local authorities asking whether issues relating to the clubs were "adequately controlled" by the existing legislation.

He said it was "clear that the protections and regulations set out in the 2003 [Licensing] Act and elsewhere do not go as far as some people would like".

Ms May said: "Local communities should be able to decide whether it is appropriate for lap-dancing clubs to operate in their area.

"Councils are currently unable to block lap-dancing clubs opening even if they are overwhelmingly opposed by local residents.

"The government's reforms have effectively silenced communities and allow no consideration to be given to their views.

"Local people often have legitimate reasons for objecting to the planned location of a lap-dancing club - if it is near a school or a library for instance. We want to empower councils to take account of local opinion."

Labour backbencher Roberta Blackman-Woods recently launched a parliamentary bid to get the licensing laws changed to have lap-dancing clubs put on the same footing as sex shops or cinemas.

Her Sex Encounter Establishments (Licensing) Bill gained its first reading in the House of Commons in June, but is unlikely to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.


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