Clarke wants drink in cafes and children in pubs

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The Independent Online
CHILDREN will be allowed into pubs and alcohol will be on sale in Continental-style cafes under proposals to update licensing laws in England and Wales announced yesterday by Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary.

Mr Clarke, who launched his plans in the Cardinal, a Westminster pub, said: 'The old spit-and-sawdust, very male, heavy drinking, rush-a-few-pints-down- before-closing pub is, I'm glad to say, getting rather thin on the ground now.'

Mr Clarke plans 'children's certificates', such as have operated in Scotland since January 1991, enabling 'suitable' pubs to admit children under 14 accompanied by an adult. There will also be coffee-house licences, so that places selling snacks can also sell alcoholic drinks.

The Government published a consultative document yesterday and is inviting views until June.

Mr Clarke said he believed that more relaxed licensing laws would promote more moderate drinking and give children a more 'civilised' introduction to alcohol. Existing law forbids children under 14 to set foot in a bar where alcohol is being served.

He denied it would be the death knell for the traditional British pub, emphasizing that landlords would not have to apply for children's certificates.

The Government also wants to water down magistrates' 'absolute power' to reject licence applications, often without giving reasons, by introducing national criteria.

It further plans to abolish Welsh Sunday opening polls - by which areas can elect to stay 'dry' on Sundays - after the next poll in 1996.

Mr Clarke emphasised that there would be no changes in the legal drinking age or in opening hours.

The proposals were condemned by alcohol pressure groups.

Drinkers' verdict, page 3