Page last updated at 22:03 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Lap dance laws 'to be tightened'

Jacqui Smith: 'The law needs to respond'

Jacqui Smith has told the BBC that the government will take action to tighten licensing laws for lap-dancing clubs.

It has been consulting on whether they should be kept in the same category as pubs and cafes, or be put in that shared by sex shops and peep shows.

The home secretary said there had been a "strong message" that people wanted a bigger say in where clubs opened.

She said they need to be regulated "much more strongly" and were much more like "sex encounter establishments".

She told the BBC: "I don't believe lap-dancing clubs fall into the category of mainstream entertainment and therefore they shouldn't be regulated in that way either."

When you have seen a doubling of the number since 2004 - that's a rate of growth I don't want to continue seeing in the future
Jacqui Smith
Home secretary

"It's not the same as going out for a meal or a drink ... it should be more tightly controlled - that's what local people think and local authorities think.

"They need to have a say in actually being able to restrict and limit the development of lap-dancing clubs."

She said the feedback she had received was that councils and local people did not have a say under the current licensing laws.

"We want to take action to make sure that local people do have more of a say and local authorities can take those sorts of decisions," she said.

Suitable locations

The Local Government Association has complained that the category lap-dancing clubs are placed in under licensing law means councils are powerless to stop them spreading.

They are unable to take into account the kind of customers they might attract, or the suitability of the location, when awarding an alcohol licence.

I don't want anyone coming into my clubs thinking they are going to get a sexual encounter
Peter Stringfellow

The first lap-dancing club opened in Britain 1995 and the LGA says they have doubled in number to about 300 since 2004.

Ms Smith told the BBC : "We are not seeking to close all lap-dancing clubs but actually, when you have seen a doubling of the number since 2004 - that's a rate of growth I don't want to continue seeing in the future."

She said she believed there were "too many" clubs, some of which had opened in residential areas.

She also suggested that existing clubs would have to reapply for their licenses more regularly: "Perhaps every year would be a reasonable amount of time to review these licenses for those already in existence."

Performers 'stigmatised'

On Tuesday club owner Peter Stringfellow told MPs it would be wrong to make lap-dance clubs apply for a "sexual encounter" licence.

He said councils already had powers to penalise clubs which put on nude shows and the change would mean clubs had to go through the planning process, which would make it more difficult for them to open.

He told the MPs a sexual encounter licence in Westminster borough, where his clubs are based, would cost 30,000.

"I don't want anyone coming into my clubs thinking they are going to get a sexual encounter."

Earlier in the month lap dancers protested at Downing Street against the proposals, saying it would stigmatise performers.

But the plans are backed by the LGA and women's rights campaign groups the Fawcett Society and Object.



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SEE ALSO
In the lap of the council
03 Nov 08 |  UK
Tougher lap dance licensing urged
15 Aug 08 |  UK Politics
Tories urge curbs on lap-dancing
24 Jul 08 |  UK Politics

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