The politician in charge of Britain's licensing regime has announced he will review a loophole in the legislation which has opened the door to a string of fully nude lap-dancing clubs in Brighton and Hove.

Gerry Sutcliffe, the Minister responsible for licensing, told parliament he was concerned about the situation in the city and promised to consult with ministerial colleagues over a permanent change to the law.

He made the comments following a meeting with Hove MP Celia Barlow and city councillor Gill Mitchell to discuss problems with the licensing act which has left Brighton and Hove City Council virtually powerless to stop clubs opening.

He said: "We continue to review what can be done.

"We have made the right move in delegating the matter to local government, because it is right that local councillors and local government have the right to determine what goes on in their area.

"It is important that we look at the planning process and its objectives, and I am particularly concerned to hear that in Brighton, six lap-dancing clubs have been established in a very short time.

"That problem will start to spread throughout the country, so I appreciate my honourable friend raising the matter.

"I will be happy to meet colleagues again to consider what can be done to ensure that local people get what they want in their local area."

Since the new licensing regime was introduced in November 2005, six clubs have been granted licenses for fully-nude dancing, although only four currently put on lap-dancing. Until that point only two operated in the city and nudity was not allowed.

Spearmint Rhino added to its international empire by opening the first fully nude club on East Street last year.

The licence was approved by magistrates on appeal, overturning the council's initial rejection.

Magistrates ruled that police could not establish the link between strip clubs and disorder and threw out the council's decision not to grant the East Street venue a licence.

This left the council almost powerless to stop clubs opening as police felt they could not appeal.

Since then the council has added restrictions to the licensing policy allowing it to take into account proximity to schools and religious buildings, but this has yet to be tested.

Coun Mitchell, leader of Brighton and Hove's Labour group, said: "The minister was very receptive and I am very pleased that he clearly understands our problems and is willing to work with the Home Office to look for a way forward."

Ms Barlow and David Lepper, MP for Brighton Pavilion, both raised the problem during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.

She said: "I am extremely encouraged by the minister's announcement.

"The current licensing act is wholly ineffective when it comes to regulating lap dancing clubs.

"These clubs have sprung up in the hearts of our communities, and I also welcome the announcement to contact local authorities over what more can be done under the current law to prevent these clubs from opening."

Dee Simpson, chairwoman of the licensing committee, said: "It is really good news that they are talking about it.

"Our officers have been lobbying for a long time, saying there could be a problem with the licensing act, and nobody really wanted to take responsibility."

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