Hospitality says smoking compromise won't work

by Chris Druce , Monday 29th November 2004 18:35
One of the Government's leaked proposals to combat smoking in public places has been attacked as unworkable by the hospitality industry and lobby groups.

Leaked reports have revealed the Government is considering new regulations, which would force businesses to apply for a council-administered licence if they wanted to allow smoking.

This option would allow businesses to side-step the ban. To qualify, operators would need to have a certain standard of ventilation on their premises and to guarantee that no children would be exposed to second-hand smoke.

Following this path would allow the Government to pass the decision to local councils and avoid it being accused of "nanny-statism" ahead of next year's General Election.

But Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, dismissed the idea as chaotic. "A system like this would create a lot of uncertainty. National pub groups could find themselves granted licences by one council but refused by another if the council's quota was used up. This halfway house approach would be a nightmare."

Deborah Arnott, director of Ash, agreed a licensing option would be disastrous for the trade: "I think the Government would be mad to go with the licensing option as it would unite councils and the trade against them, both of which are already annoyed about the new alcohol licensing regime."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health confirmed a range of options had been discussed as part of the White Paper. "There will be a decision on the Government's course of action contained in the paper, but until then the rest remains speculation."

The release of the White Paper is expected before the Parliamentary recess on 18 November ahead of the Queen's speech on 23 November.

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