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The BBC's Christine Stewart
"The idea is to prevent binge drinking before last orders and to stagger closing times"
 real 56k

Sunday, 29 April, 2001, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Time to be called on pub laws
Pint of beer on bar
There may be time for one more soon
Pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to sell alcohol 24 hours a day under plans for a radical overhaul of licensing laws.

Details of the planned changes - the most radical of their kind for 40 years - will be unveiled later this week.


Rather than being treated like children, we are going to be allowed to make these decisions ourselves

Mark Hastings, Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association
Ministers believe that ending fixed closing time in England and Wales will curb binge drinking.

But the Conservatives are accusing Labour of electioneering - saying the timing of the announcement, ahead of the general election, is opportunistic.

The move follows the publication of a White Paper last year in which detailed proposals were outlined for the reform of licensing laws and enhanced police powers.

It is being reported that closing times will be staggered on police advice.

But new police powers, including on-the-spot fines, will help in the crackdown on problem landlords and drinkers.

Resident veto

A new split licensing system will require landlords and their premises to get separate permits.

A three-strikes-and-out policy will stop landlords who have lost licences setting up elsewhere.

But nearby residents will be able to block applications if it will affect them.

The new licensing laws would end Sunday restrictions and give children more access to pubs and bars.

Pub landlords would be able to decide on their own hours, with the aim of staggering closing times between 11pm and 3am, with some premises allowed to stay open all night, seven days a week.

'Responsible drinking'

Restrictions on Sunday trading would be lifted, except for those which limit stores to six hours trading on Sundays.

Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien said: "Our proposals will deal with the antiquated and bureaucratic licensing system and modernise it."

"They will give business greater freedom, protect local residents, help the police deal with law and order and give the public more opportunities to socialise."

An Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) spokesman backed the proposals saying that such a move would help in the control of trouble-makers.

He denied that having an around the clock availability of alcohol would have a detrimental effect on public order saying that "once it had settled down" people would spread their drinking over longer periods.

Mark Hastings of the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association said that extending licensing laws would bring the nation into the 21st century.

"We are absolutely delighted, as I'm sure millions of people around the country are," he said.

"Rather than being treated like children, we are going to be allowed to make these decisions are ourselves."

That would lead to a mature drinking culture, he argued.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said of the proposals: "This concept has already been announced.

"How typical and opportunistic of Labour to revisit this in the run-up to the election.

"We said at the time we were in favour of the principles although we have some reservations about the mechanics of allowing local councils rather than magistrates to police the licensing."

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21 Jul 98 | UK
Open all hours
25 Aug 99 | UK
Appeal to reform drink laws
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