Licensees won't have enough time to prepare for the smoking ban unless the regulations and guidance are published before Parliament breaks for its summer recess, pub associations have warned.
The Government has been slow to issue the regulations for England's smoking ban, and pub associations fear a repeat of the delays that dogged the Licensing Act and the smoking ban in Scotland earlier this year.
The most critical information for licensees is the permitted size and shape of outdoor smoking shelters. "Pubs don't want to invest in something and then find they're not allowed to do it," said Melanie Taylor, communications manager at the British Institute of Innkeeping.
Mark Hastings, director of communications at the British Beer & Pub Association, agreed: "If the regulations are published in the next few weeks, members are relatively confident they will have sufficient time to put effective plans in place. If they drift into the autumn, people are less confident."
Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said: "We're concerned that the regulations may be prescriptive and leave publicans no time to get the money or approvals to comply."
Bish, who favoured phasing in the ban in three stages, felt the Government should conclude its three-month consultation that will follow the publication of the regulations, before setting any dates to implement a ban.
The Department of Health confirmed that no publication date has yet been set.
- Smoking ban in England expected summer 2007.
- Smoking banned in all enclosed public places.
- Regulations likely to take lead from Scotland.
By Angela Frewin