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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 20:04 GMT
Longer pub opening gets go-ahead
Ministers say relaxing laws will help prevent binge drinking
The government has beaten off a last-ditch attempt to prevent pubs opening round-the-clock from next week.

A Conservative motion to cancel the part of the Licensing Act allowing extended hours was defeated by 74 votes in the Commons.

Opponents say later closing times for England and Wales will lead to increased anti-social behaviour.

But ministers say the plans, which come into effect on 24 November, will encourage "grown-up" drinking habits.

'Potential problems'

The Licensing Act went through Parliament in 2003, but the Tory motion would have delayed extended hours until at least the New Year.

If people want to have a quiet drink after going to the cinema or getting home from work, there's nothing wrong with that
James Purnell
Licensing Minister

Licensing minister James Purnell told BBC News existing laws, with an 11pm "curfew", had "patently failed" to stop binge drinking.

He added: "We think that having hours decided locally by local councils is absolutely the right thing to do.

"If people want to have a quiet drink after going to the cinema or getting home from work, there's nothing wrong with that."

Two Labour MPs, former ministers Frank Field and Kate Hoey, voted against the government.

Earlier, shadow culture secretary Theresa May said that during the last two years there had been more evidence from police, doctors, judges and the general public of potential problems with the plan.

The Lib Dems backed the Tory motion, which was lost by 228 votes to 302.

I work in the pub trade. This bill has been a nightmare to work with
Stephen Oliver, Derby

Party culture spokeswoman Jo Swinson said: "There's an increasing feeling among the public that it's not the right course to take and it's going to exacerbate the binge-drinking culture."

BBC political correspondent Jo Coburn said the vote had "never been in any doubt", but that Conservatives had wanted to "highlight something they feel is unpopular" with the public.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said only 700 of the 190,000 premises that could apply for 24-hour licences had done so.

But 75% had asked for an opening times extension of between one and three hours.

On Monday, ministers suffered a symbolic defeat in the Lords when peers voted to ask the government to delay the new regime by seven months.

The motion, passed by 130 to 97, majority 33, is not binding on the government, and ministers made clear that they had no intention of accepting it.

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