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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
World Cup 'will test drinks law'
Beer taps in pub
The pub trade says changes to the law have not caused problems
This summer's World Cup will test the law allowing extended drinking hours, the Conservatives have warned.

Major problems predicted following the introduction of legislation six months ago on Wednesday have not happened.

However shadow culture, media and sport secretary Hugo Swire says the full impact can be judged only after the football tournament in Germany.

"The summer, and particularly the World Cup, will be the real test of what effect the changes will have," he said.

The Conservatives also attacked the government for its handling of the changes.

"What is already clear is that the ill thought-out and overly bureaucratic new arrangements are proving a major headache for village halls, community groups and many charities, which have been hit with extra costs and red tape as a result of the chaotic implementation of the Act," said Mr Swire.

"There was a need for reform of Britain's licensing laws, but the government has mishandled the new regime."

The summer, and particularly the World Cup, will be the real test of what effect the changes will have
Hugo Swire, shadow culture, media and sport Secretary

The legislation, which allows pubs and clubs to open 24 hours a day, was the biggest shake-up in licensing regulations for 50 years.

The Liberal Democrats have rejected the claim the World Cup will be a test for the laws.

"The impact of new licensing laws remains unclear," said Lib Dem culture spokesman Don Foster. "

"Any suggestion that the World Cup will provide the answers is mere opportunism.

"Pubs could and did get longer hours during previous World Cups when the old system was in place. The key test for these laws must be based on full crime and health statistics."

Drink-fuelled Armageddon

The British Beer and Pub Association, which represents more than 30,000 licensed premises, says the new regulations have caused few problems so far.

Neil Williams, from the association, said: "It's early days but all the signs are the new system is working well. We have not descended into the drink-fuelled Armageddon predicted by some."

The government was earlier this year accused of mishandling the introduction of 24-hour drinking by a cross-party committee of MPs, which said guidance on implementing the rules was issued too late leaving landlords just months to apply for the new licences.

When the changes were introduced the government said the aims were to give people more choice over when they consume alcohol and hand the police extra powers to tackle drink-related problems.

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