Success for Churches in bid to protect children from harm in pubs

The Government is to ban unaccompanied children from going intopubs following lobbying by The Salvation Army and The MethodistChurch.

There are currently no regulations stopping a child fromentering a pub or club on their own and the Licensing Bill, whichis completing its passage through Parliament and is due to becomelaw this week, looked set to leave this situation unchanged.However, after refusing to back down for months the government madea dramatic last minute u-turn in the House of Lords and agreed toban unaccompanied under-16s from premises being used 'exclusivelyor primarily' for the consumption of alcohol.

The Salvation Army and The Methodist Church joined with a smallgroup of children's groups and alcohol charities to meet with TessaJowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to look athow the Bill affected children.

Members of the group pressed for a tightening of the law on theprotection of children. In the Lords, the Government eventuallybowed to pressure and introduced an amendment which preventschildren under 16 entering pubs unaccompanied and from being in anylicensed premises on their own after midnight.

"I'm very pleased that the government has seen sense, even atthe last minute, and put the safety of children above everythingelse," said Major Bill Cochrane, Secretary for Communications ofThe Salvation Army. "There is absolutely no reason why a child ontheir own should be in a pub where the primary or sole purpose isto serve alcohol. And more than that, we argued very strongly thatthe Bill risked putting children at greater risk, which rancompletely counter to the Government's stated intentions."

The Licensing Bill contains a raft of measures designed tosimplify existing legislation. Licensing authorities will have toput the welfare of children alongside the prevention of disorder atthe top of their list of concerns when considering licensingapplications. The government is encouraging pubs to become more'family friendly' in an effort to create a continental-styleapproach to alcohol rather than the binge-drinking more commonlyassociated with Britain.

"The Methodist Church applauds the government for attempting tofoster a more responsible drinking culture in the UK but allowingunaccompanied children into pubs is not the way to do that," saidRachel Lampard, Secretary for Parliamentary and Political Affairsat The Methodist Church. "British drinking culture needs to changefundamentally before we can guarantee that children will be safegoing into any pub on their own."

Earlier on in the course of the Licensing Bill's progressionthrough parliament the Churches successfully lobbied to ensure thatmusical concerts held in churches would not need a licence.