BRUSSELS bureaucrats have been slammed by pub bosses for introducing laws to ban barmaids' cleavage.

The rules, which are expected to be agreed by the European Parliament next month, are part of the Optical Radiation Directive.

EU lawmakers say barmaids wearing low-cut tops risk skin cancer when collecting glasses outdoors.

They argue with 69,000 new cases of the disease each year, it is important to protect workers.

The Health and Safety Executive believes if the law gets the go-ahead, pubs which do not enforce it could be closed down.

North Kent pub bosses are furious with the proposals, saying it is another nail in the coffin of traditional boozers.

Last month, pubs were warned they would have to take down decorative hops because they could be a fire hazard.

Staff at the Litten Tree pub, Spital Street, Dartford, cannot believe the ban on cleavage.

Manager Pete Edwards thinks it is madness to make barmaids cover up.

He said: "I think it's absolutely barmy to say to somebody they have to cover up before they go in the beer garden.

"I would say to staff, this is the directive but do as you please."

Derrick Winch, landlord of the British Tar, Milton Road, Gravesend, agrees.

He said: "These are things we have done for years and years and now it is suddenly a problem. Things like this are ridiculous. It's like most of the EU, crazy."

Nathan Gordon, manager of The Crown and Thistle pub, The Terrace, Gravesend, says his staff do not spent enough time outside to get burnt.

Real ale group CAMRA is also baffled by the new law, which if approved will come into effect in 2007/08.

Spokesman Louise Ashworth said: "We just think it's really silly. Just slap on some suntan lotion and a hat and they will be OK."

British MEP Liz Lynne has battled to allow member states to decide on whether to implement the law if it is approved.

She said: "A perfectly reasonable directive to protect workers from artificial radiation could have been ruined by the ludicrous proposals to legislate on the sun.

"Sometimes we (the EU) can be our own worst enemy."