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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 12:54 GMT
Drinking law reviews 'continue'
Beer taps
Critics say licensing laws have helped fuel binge drinking
Downing Street has denied any decision has been taken on the future of 24-hour licensing, as Whitehall departments review aspects of the law.

The Times says Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to keep the licensing laws, five months after announcing a review.

But that report was "premature", No 10 said, as various reviews of the law are not expected to end until February.

In July the PM said any decisions would be based on the reviews into the impact of the law in its first two years.

The main review referred to by Mr Brown was a Home Office one into the law and order implications of the change.

That, together with other reviews including one by the Department of Health, are expected to feed into the final review by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, which is due in February.

Minor changes

The Times reports that the Home Office review is expected to dismiss claims that all-day licensing has fuelled binge drinking.

Instead, the paper says, Mr Brown will demand only minor changes to the law and "focus on tackling the culture of drinking" rather than licensing.

The prime minister is likely to suggest new measures such as banning drinking in the street and greater penalties for those who sell alcohol to minors, the paper adds.

Nobody has ever said we are looking to end 24 hour drinking
Downing Street source

In July, shortly after becoming prime minister, Mr Brown said he recognised there were "strong feelings" about 24 hour drinking and announced a review to see "what the experience has been".

It was interpreted by some commentators as an indication Mr Brown was minded to change the law introduced by his predecessor Tony Blair. That has prompted claims a decision not to axe the laws would be a U-turn.

But a Downing Street source told the BBC it was "utter garbage" to accuse the prime minister of a U-turn, whatever decision was taken, adding: "Nobody has ever said we are looking to end 24 hour drinking."

The source said Mr Brown had spoken of his concerns at the number and type of premises allowed to open for 24 hours, such as off licences and supermarkets.

Laws allowing pubs to apply for permission to open for up to 24 hours a day were passed by MPs in 2003 and came into force in 2005. Critics say they have fuelled binge drinking.

SEE ALSO
Aboard the 'Booze Bus'
17 Dec 07 |  Magazine
500 pubs adopt 24-hour drinking
08 Nov 07 |  UK Politics
Brown 'may reverse drinking laws'
24 Sep 07 |  UK Politics
Review of 24-hour drinking laws
23 Jul 07 |  UK Politics

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