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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 21:13 GMT
500 pubs adopt 24-hour drinking
Beer taps
Most 24-hour licences have gone to hotels, ministers say
About 500 pubs and clubs in England and Wales have been granted 24-hour licences in the two years since laws were changed, government figures show.

Statistics based on replies from 86% of licensing authorities show that 5,100 venues had 24-hour licences between April 2006 and March 2007.

That includes 3,300 hotels and 910 supermarkets and 460 pubs and clubs - out of 53,000 across the country.

But the Tories said it was a 70% rise on 24-hour licences in a year.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a review of 24-hour licensing laws in June and told the Labour Party conference that he would overturn them if he thought it was necessary.

But the Department for Culture, Media and Sport says the "vast majority" of 24-hour licences go to hotels, which only serve to their guests.

Special occasions

Its statistics said of the hotels granted a 24-hour licence, 2,500 were licensed only to sell to their customers and their private guests, the report said.

Licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe said the figures "put to bed the theory that this law is all about 24-hour drinking".

As the number of 24-hour licences soars the much trumpeted new powers for local residents have had little impact
Jeremy Hunt

He said: "Less than 3% of premises are licensed to sell alcohol round-the-clock and two thirds of those are hotels, which have always been able to serve their guests for 24 hours a day.

"Only around 1% of premises have 24-hour licences to sell alcohol to the public - and many only open longer hours on special occasions."

According to the statistics, at least 90 licences were revoked in the 12 months and 91 were suspended for three months, 110 had to change their opening hours and 390 were made subject to "other conditions".

'Held to account'

But the Conservatives said those figures were only a tiny proportion of the 176,400 licensed premises and the number granted 24-hour licences had increased 70% on the previous estimate of 3,000.

"As the number of 24-hour licences soars the much trumpeted new powers for local residents have had little impact - less than 0.4% of all licensed premises have actually been reviewed using these powers," said shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

"We have constantly argued that decisions about licensing are best made locally but this is clearly not happening."

The Lib Dems pointed to figures showing that alcohol was involved with 46% of all violent attacks in 2006/7 and the number of drinkers admitted to casualty had increased 96% under Labour - to 400 a day.

Spokesman Don Foster said: "The buck must stop with ministers - it's their job to hold Britain's pubs, bars and off-licences to account for the country's binge drinking culture."

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