City's pubs challenge law reform

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Local authorities, Mayor of london, Covent garden

London's licensees are to meet in a bid to challenge proposals to transfer control of licensing from magistrates to local authorities.The measure...

London's licensees are to meet in a bid to challenge proposals to transfer control of licensing from magistrates to local authorities.

The measure forms part of the recent White Paper on licensing reform issued by Home Secretary Jack Straw.

The May 23 meeting is being called by Michael Collins, the chairman of Greenwich, Blackheath and Eltham pubwatch.

Speakers include Mary Curnock Cook of the British Institute of Innkeeping and John Madden of the Guild of Master Victuallers.

Although the speakers reserve their right to their own views, Collins said: "We oppose the transfer of licensing to local authorities."

Anne Flintham, spokeswoman for the Magistrates' Association, said: "This is music to our ears. We are standing our ground."

She added: "There is a clear conflict of interest here which is not dealt with by the White Paper. Magistrates are an independent voice free of commercial or political pressure."

She queried what would happen when local authorities are asked to rule on a premises which they own, such as community centres.

The Association of Chief Fire Officers has expressed similar concerns. It fears that its recommendations on numbers of people allowed in a building will be overruled by greedy councillors out to maximise profits.

Curnock Cook has pledged to work hard to see that if licensing is handled by local authorities, it is handled properly.

In a separate development, Frank Dobson, Labour candidate for London mayor, has told The Publican Newspaper of his support for the government's licensing reform White Paper.

Dobson said the proposals balanced "public concern against the needs of industry and commerce".

He added that flexible opening hours should be tempered by the needs of residents and said he did "not support a de-regulated free-for-all".

Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer plans to separate the capitals' pubs and bars into licensing "zones".

Kramer would co-ordinate licensing hours and transport for each zone individually.

Although she supports the government's plans for relaxed opening, with local authorities in charge of licensing, she said: "Residents, shop-keepers and other interested parties will be consulted and a decision taken on the principle of opening and closing times within that zone.

"So, for example, Soho may stay open until 3am while it might seem more appropriate for the Covent Garden zone to close at 1am."

Related topics: Legislation

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