'Pubs to allow younger children'

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The Independent Online

Children of all ages may be allowed to sit in pubs in a move designed to encourage moderate drinking by adults, according to plans under consideration by Home Office officials.

A review of licensing laws to be published shortly is expected to recommend that children be allowed to enter pubs on condition that they do not buy or drink alcohol and are accompanied by an adult.

It is understood that Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has described the present law as "obscure and deeply confusing".

Ministers are understood to believe that a relaxation of the rules and the presence of young children in pubs would encourage a culture of "sensible drinking" in which binge drinking and aggressive behaviour would become socially unacceptable.

They have also recognised that the present law is often ignored by landlords and that the review would give families more choice. Landlords would still be able to bar children but would have to obtain a special licence to do so.

While the laws governing children and licenced premises have been steadily relaxed in recent years, children under the age of 14 are still banned from the bar of a pub and are only allowed, where landlords provide them, in gardens, family rooms and restaurant areas.

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that a White Paper on licensing laws, which will also suggest allowing pubs to open 24 hours a day, was due to be published in a month or so.