A lack of qualified door staff may force pubs and clubs in Hampshire to close, a government agency has warned.

New legislation means workers must be licensed by the Security Industry Authority. Hampshire is the pilot for the scheme, which becomes active on June 4th.

Venues employing unlicensed staff after the deadline face losing their licence and possible closure by the police.

The SIA says all applications received before Friday, May 7th will be processed before the scheme begins. The authority sent out 1,300 forms, but only 400 were returned in time.

SIA deputy chief executive, Andy Drane, said: "Given the clear understanding of the new requirements and the availability of training, inaction by individual door supervisors and venue operators can only be through deliberate means or neglect."

One of the largest providers of door staff in Hampshire is The Big Security Company Ltd. The firm handles security at several Winchester venues including The Gaol House, the Slug and Lettuce, and Greens wine bar.

It is not offering work to unlicensed staff after June 4th and company co-director, Sean McCarthy, said its workers had met the May 7th deadline.

Yet, he is worried the forms might not be processed in time and says a 30-day extension would be welcome. "That's all they need to do-just to be a little bit flexible."

To qualify for the licence, door staff must attend a course lasting up to four days and normally costing around £250.

Candidates learn how to diffuse violent situations, administer first aid, evacuate venues and assist police work. The Learning and Skills Council is subsidising the courses to the tune of £102 per applicant.

Once training is completed, door staff can submit their application, which the SIA aims to process within six weeks.

An SIA spokesman said the turnaround could not be any faster as every applicant had to be checked with the Criminal Records Bureau.

He added they also have to establish whether candidates are eligible to work in Britain, then produce and post their identity card.

The spokesman reaffirmed that all forms received by May 7th would be processed in time. "There will be no grey area. The 4th of June is set in law."