A leading trade campaigner has said he would prefer the licensing system to stay as it is rather than see the Government's proposed reforms brought in.
Stuart Neame (pictured), vice-chairman of Kent brewer Shepherd Neame, claims the proposals, unveiled by the Home Office earlier this month, would "do more harm than good".
He fears residents' views would be given too much weight when considering a licence application and claims most pubs, especially in rural and residential areas, would fail to secure additional opening hours.
The Government has proposed a system of dual licences, with one licence for the licensee and one for the premises.
But Mr Neame claims the requirement for licensees to submit an operating plan before extra opening hours are granted will enable authorities to force pubs to pay to upgrade premises in order to meet health and safety, fire and planning regulations. This could lead to more restriction on opening than is currently the case.
He said: "The package on offer is a step backwards from where we are. Licensees have been conned into thinking they have won flexible opening hours but they haven't realised that the proposals do not offer this." Mr Neame, along with Tim Martin chairman of pub chain JD Wetherspoon, is also leading a group opposing the planned move to local authority control. The group claims the move would lead to extra cost, bureaucracy and politically biased decisions.
The point of no reform (May 22, 2001)