Mr Brown was full of predictions of gloom and doom about the balance of power appearing to move from trustworthy magistrates to possibly questionable councillors. His fears were unfounded as the only people who can object to the granting of a licence are the police, and it is the council workers and not the elected members who process applications. My dealings with Cambridge City, East Cambs and South Cambs have all been very painless - apart from the fact that an occasional license (now called a TEN) now costs more than twice as much as it did two years ago. The predictions of mass binge drinking that would follow the possibility of 24 hour opening have not materialised, and the situation of pubs having staggered closing times has possibly helped. A problem has been that if a publican has asked to be allowed to stay open until, say, 1am, and he introduces it a while after it was granted, the busybody neighbour who presumably moved next door to a pub and not the other way round, will often have the temerity to complain not realizing the publican is well within his rights. My problem is that I still do not know when certain pubs are open or closed.

The smoking ban caused as much controversy as we all expected. The smoker will tell you it has been a disaster, and I am sure many who don't smoke but enjoy the company of a smoker have had many a conversation or convivial time spoilt by the exit to the garden or smoking area. It was craftily brought in at summer time so that the warm weather would lessen the complaints, but the government could not get even that one right with it being the worst summer on record!

The cleaner air in pubs has to be beneficial to the bar staff who do not have the choice of a smoky pub. The fall off in trade has not been as dramatic as expected and my spies north of the border tell me normal trade has resumed. My only problem is the erosion of freedom of choice. One of the interesting things about the new laws is that if I, as licence holder, am in a pub that I have nothing to do with and are present when the publican sells alcohol to a minor, I too am liable to the £20,000 maximum fine. Is it the same if I am in the pub when someone lights up? I am concerned about the possibility of zero alcohol tolerance driving being introduced. It will be the end of the pub as we know it, and will not stop the problem drinker getting behind the wheel There is a labyrinth of questions, but by and large I feel it has all worked out just about OK.

Jerry Brown