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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 21:01 GMT
24-hour drinking promise
Drinkers in a student bar
There'll be no need to drink up at 11pm
Round-the-clock pub opening in England and Wales is back on the agenda, with new legislation to allow it due to be introduced in the next Queen's Speech.

At last year's election, Labour tried to woo young voters by sending text messages indicating a re-elected Blair administration would introduce 24-hour pub opening.

We support the removal of the rigid permitted hours which are so clearly linked to peaks of crime and disorder

Association of Chief Police Officers
But when the Queen's Speech was unveiled shortly after last year's election there was no such bill on offer.

Now the Department of Culture is set to introduce a bill that could call time on Britain's antiquated laws.

The move has the backing of many police officers who feel that staggering the time pubs close at would reduce disorder.

It is also hoped that the reforms would boost tourism and help tackle the "binge drinking" culture.

A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association told the Independent newspaper: "If the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has secured a place in the Queen's Speech then I'm sure that landlords will be raising a glass to [minister] Kim Howells and his colleagues."

Ringing the changes?

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "We support the removal of the rigid permitted hours which are so clearly linked to peaks of crime and disorder."

Licensing laws in England and Wales have changed little since 1915, when they were tightened to stop factory workers turning up drunk and harming the war effort.

Pub sign
Sign of the times: Pubs say customers would benefit
Under the proposals, first published in a white paper entitled Time for Reform in April 2000, closing times will be varied on police advice to stop rowdy drinkers emptying into the streets simultaneously.

Ministers will also champion more family-friendly pubs by loosening restrictions on youngsters entering them.

Although licensees can apply to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, local residents will be able to challenge applications.

See also:

02 May 01 | UK Politics
End near for 'antiquated' pub laws
21 Jul 98 | UK
Open all hours
25 Aug 99 | UK
Appeal to reform drink laws
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