Elaine Watson
Government plans to make retailers pass exams to get a drinks licence have been blasted as "nonsensical" by the British Retail Consortium.
The proposals form part of the new Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Bill, which will pave the way for a historic relaxation of licensing laws, allowing pubs and off-licences to sell alcohol around the clock. The Bill, which will appear in the Queen's speech on Wednesday, is great news for retailers, said the BRC.
However, clauses requiring applicants for a new personal licence to pass exams covering issues such as barring rowdy customers are "plainly ridiculous," said a spokesman.
As the Bill stands, existing licenceholders as well as new applicants will have to study for exams covering issues they "will simply never face on a day-to-day basis," he added.
"We're not against professionalising the licensing system, but the exam syllabus ­ and we've seen a copy ­ is clearly aimed at publicans, not off-licences.
"This is a case when the one-size-fits-all approach does not work. It completely defies common sense."
The Bill is expected to gain Royal Assent next summer with the new system coming into force in 2004.
The BRC and the Association of Convenience Stores have relayed their concerns to Department of Culture, Media and Sport under secretary of state Kim Howells, who was "receptive and open minded" on the subject, said the spokesman.

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