Politics: Jowell tells police to close `rogue' bars

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POLICE CHIEFS were urged yesterday to use controversial drinking laws which come into effect on Monday to close down "rogue" pubs and clubs. Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, who introduced the flexible late- night drinking laws, said they will enable the police to crack down harder on problem bars.

She said binge-drinking, particularly by girls, had to be tackled. "You need a new licensing regime because of these photographs of young girls showing their knickers in the street, out of their heads with drink," Ms Jowell said.

Critics claim she is asking the police to clear up the social mess she has caused by allowing more binge-drinking. Ms Jowell dismissed that as "ridiculous" and said she wanted to send a "tough and uncompromising message to every licensee in the country".

She added: "It's important everybody understands the police have the power to object to the reissue of any licence, whether or not the licensee is applying to stay open for longer to provide late entertainment.

"My message to every single police force in the country is, `You have these powers; you know which the rogue pubs are. Object to their licences being issued'. Nothing will send a clearer signal to the industry than the fact that a number of licences are not renewed because the police believe they give rise to crime and disorder."

More than 113,000 pubs and restaurants, 20,000 clubs and 46,000 supermarkets, off-licences and corner shops, will have to apply for their licences to be renewed under the new rules. For the first time, the applications will be decided by local councils rather than magistrates. Ministers believe the councils will be more inclined to close problem pubs after police objections because they have to foot the bill for coping with drink-related disorder.

Rogue pubs could be forced to close or they might have to bring in a new manager, Ms Jowell said. "The clear message when these new licences are issued is that you have to comply with the terms of your licence," she said. Licensees who failed to protect people from disorder, and to protect children would face the "full weight of the new enforcement powers both by the local authorities and the police", Ms Jowell added.

From November, pubs and clubs granted more flexible drinking licences will be able to stay open until the early hours.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said he would enforce the principle of the "polluter should pay" for alcohol-related crime.