Council refuse to bar Myanmar Embassy from Town Hall

Refusing bookings on ethical grounds could lead to legal challenge

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Chiswick hosted brutal regime's party

Hounslow Council have ruled out the possibility of a ban on the use of Chiswick Town Hall by the Myanmar Embassy citing legal reasons.

It was revealed last week on that the Hall had been used in January for the official Myanmar independence day celebrations. It subsequently emerged that the Embassy had regularly booked events at the Town Hall over the last few years. Myanmar (or Burma) is currently ruled by a military junta which refused to hand over power to a democratically elected government and has been widely condemned for human rights abuses.

A spokesman for Hounslow Council said, "The local authority, and those organisations which provide a service on its behalf, is bound by law not to discriminate in the provision of services for ethical, moral or unconnected political reasons.

"There have been successful challenges against local authorities who have discriminated in their service provision for reasons which the High Court has said are not relevant to Council functions. These have included, for example, reasons which related to apartheid in South Africa; and on moral issues e.g. concerning hunting."

The Council say they could only legitimately refuse to let out the Town Hall if there were a real and a significant threat of public disorder or damage to council property. If this were the case the Council, CIP and Police would hold discussions to decide a course of action.

A spokesperson for CIP, the company that handle bookings at the Town Hall said, "When the initial request for hiring the venue was received, it went through an approval process by senior management. CIP does not actively support any political regime and as an apolitical organisation we support equal representation."

CiP said that they had received no complaints from the public about the holding of an official Myanmar function at the venue.

Concerns have already been expressed by local residents that the policy may open the door for far right organisations such as the BNP to book Chiswick Town Hall for an event.

February 27, 2004