The Association of Licensing Multiple Retailers, which covers more than 50% of Britain's pubs and bars through its 100 members, is close to falling out with the British Beer and Pubs Association, the industry's senior trade body, over licensing reform.

The ALMR is angry that, despite claims by the BBPA, there has been no unequivocal guarantee by government ministers at the Department of Culture. Media and Sport, which is in charge of licensing, of "grandfather rights" in the proposed new Licensing Bill.

The expression means a guarantee that no rights currently enjoyed by pubs and bars can be taken away from them by whoever ends up in charge of licensing. Under current government proposals, that will be local authorities, rather than, as at present, magistrates' courts.

Nick Bish, chief executive of the ALMR, said that proposals put forward by the BBPA, formerly known as the Brewers' Society, "have yet to be considered by the industry as a whole and do not, therefore, carry the endorsement of the ALMR. As far as we are concerned this is only a basis for discussion; we have not yet reached any agreement.

"It will simply not be acceptable for operators to have to apply afresh for existing licences, with the very real threat that their operating conditions could be tightened and hours reduced. This is crucial to our members and nowhere in this document is there the unequivocal statement of policy from the DCMS that 'what you have you hold'.

Bish said the document from the BBPA with its proposals "begs as many questions as it answers - the published details imply huge logistical burdens and cost issues. The ALMR has consistently expressed grave reservations about the possibility of all operators having to re-apply for premises licences under the new regime."

He said the association wrote directly to the minister in charge of licensing on 27th September saying that the proposals were illogical, burdensome and gave rise to uncertainty, and calling on him to respect the 'grandfather rights'of existing premises.