Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News and other Busyness

New Law To Close Clubs

Entertainment Licences Act will lead to greater dangers

Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 6.

A NEW LAW giving local authorities the power to close dance clubs without warning was waived through the House of Commons just before the general election. Originally introduced as a private members bill by Barry Legg (ex-Con MP Milton Keynes, South West), the Public Entertainments Licences (Drug Misuse) Act was in fact a Tory government initiative which depended on Labour Party support in order to achieve statutory status in the last five minutes of House of Commons' business.

Paul Flynn (Lab MP Newport West) provided the sole voice of dissent against the Bill in the Commons, arguing that the law was both hypocritical and dangerous.

"This well-intentioned Bill is framed in ignorance. It is written with a great deal of prejudice and it is a poor example of tabloid politics dictated by the tabloid press. It could cause more harm than it would prevent," he said.

With the majority of ecstasy- related deaths in the UK caused by overheating in packed night-clubs, chill-out areas with readily available water and trained drug advisors had become an increasingly encouraged phenomenon. A recent Home Office report called 'Tackling drugs together' states: "Efforts should therefore also be made to protect those who are at risk by a range of responsible measures, often expressed as 'harm minimisation'."

However, the new law now gives local authorities powers to close a club without warning if police report evidence of drug taking on the premises. With such a commercially disastrous threat hanging over club land, it now seems less likely that clubs will adopt 'harm minimisation' measures, when to do so requires an acknowledgement that drug taking does take place on the premises.

Paul Flynn also told the House of Commons: "By far the most dangerous drugs in circulation are alcohol and tobacco - the drugs of our generation... I remind the House that in 1994, 585 people were killed by paracetamol; in the same year there were three deaths from ecstasy. That puts the matter in perspective."

However, with no support from the rest of the Labour Party, the only effective opposition to the Bill came from the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

The original drafting of the Bill included drug taking "at or near the club". Arguing that this would mean clubs could be closed if drug taking took place on land over which the club had no control (such as a car park), the Lib Dem's succeeded in forcing an amendment limiting the law to include only land controlled by the club.

The Tory Government initially resisted the amendment but was forced to accept the change in order to get the law onto the statute books before the general election.