Licence to swill may be revoked

April 7, 2000

The University of Cambridge may see an end to its 14th-century right to license the sale of alcohol.

A Home Office review of licensing, examining entertainment industry and licensing laws, may recommend the move in a government white paper due to be published at the end of May.

In 1382, King Richard II gave the university the right to monitor the quality of wine and beer. This power was reinforced in 1743 by the Universities (Wine Licences) Act. That act originally applied to Oxford and Cambridge universities, but Oxford's licensing powers have been subsequently repealed.

The act states: "Within the University of Cambridge and the precincts thereof no person shall sell wine by retail unless such person should be duly licensed so to do by the university." It was originally intended to protect people from poison, maintain order and raise revenue.

Geoffrey Skelsey, principal assistant registrar and head of administration for licences at Cambridge, said the law gave jurisdiction only within five miles of the centre of the university.

"In practice it is used only for university and college purposes," he said.

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