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Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 12:46 GMT
24-hour drinking law 'will stay'
Beer taps
New licensing laws will not be reversed
The government will not reverse 24-hour licensing laws, but will instead crack down on alcohol sales to the under-18s.

Gordon Brown told the Mirror a new "two strikes" rule for off-licences would be part of a review of the Licensing Act.

He had said he would overturn 24-hour licensing laws if necessary, but told the paper that was not behind violent drunken behaviour among teenagers.

But council bosses in England and Wales say late-night drinking is stretching the police and disrupting communities.

Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the Local Government Association, said the idea that late-night licenses would end binge-drinking had totally failed.

Policing resources are being stretched further into the night
Sir Simon Milton

He told the BBC: "The real problem about alcohol violence going later into the night is not simply to do with the clock.

"First of all if you are a resident who's disturbed at night and it's three o'clock in the morning, your chances of getting back to sleep after that are much less," he said.

"But also policing resources are being stretched further into the night."

Binge drinking

The government is expected to publish its review of the Licensing Act, which introduced 24-hour drinking, later in the week.

Mr Brown announced a review of the Licensing Act, which allowed pubs and clubs to apply for later - or even 24-hour licenses - shortly after becoming prime minister, in June last year.

I think they are behaving extraordinarily by saying 24-hour drinking is here to stay
Damian Green
Shadow immigration minister

It was one of several reviews of existing policies - including allowing a super-casino in Manchester, which has since been scrapped, and the decision to downgrade cannabis.

Mr Brown told the Labour conference last September that binge drinking was "unacceptable" and he would "not hesitate to change policies" if he thought it necessary.

The results of a series of reviews of the drinking laws are due out this week and ahead of its publication Mr Brown said it would include a "two strikes and you're out" rule for off-licences caught selling alcohol to people under 18.

He said violent drunken behaviour was being fuelled by cheap alcohol drunk on the street, bought from shops and rogue off-licences.

'More violence'

Government figures published last November suggested 500 pubs and clubs had been granted 24-hour licences since the laws were introduced.

But ministers said the "vast majority" of 24-hour licences went to hotels, which only serve to their guests.

Ministers have said the evidence so far suggests there had been no overall increase in violent drink-related crime since the new laws came into force.

However, they have said that some of it now happened later at night than in the past.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said he believed the government was "behaving extraordinarily by saying 24-hour drinking is here to stay".

He said there was evidence that the measure had resulted in more violence, more crime, more of a strain on the police and more problems in local communities.

Enforcement

"What that change in legislation has done has indeed shifted a lot of that violent crime to the early hours of the morning," he told the BBC.

He said a policy was needed that dealt with the sale of alcohol to young people, the price of alcohol and the time licensees are allowed to sell it.

However, Conservative leader David Cameron said: "We don't want to go back to the situation of every pub shutting at the same time and having huge problems in our market squares where everyone came out of the pubs and started fighting with each other."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman, told the BBC better enforcement of the law was needed.

"Those police forces which have enforced this have actually had some pretty good results," he said.

"But lots of police forces are not enforcing it adequately ... The basic problem is not that we need new powers and penalties - it's that we need to enforce the law that we've already got."



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The tougher measures on alcohol sales



SEE ALSO
500 pubs adopt 24-hour drinking
08 Nov 07 |  UK Politics
Brown 'may reverse drinking laws'
24 Sep 07 |  UK Politics

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