Drinks groups pour cold water on 24-hour claims

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The Independent Online

The pubs industry yesterday hit back at concerns over new licensing laws that will allow longer opening hours, saying no pubs were planning to open 24 hours a day.

A survey of 27,500 pubs in the UK by the British Beer & Pubs Association (BPA) revealed that not a single pub was planning to open all night once the law comes into effect this year. "Not one of the 27,500 pubs that responded to our questions said they were planning 24-hour opening. The idea that pubs will be open round the clock is a myth," a spokeswoman for the BPA said. "Most licensees are just considering opening to midnight, or 2am at the latest."

The Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations also corroborated the BPA's findings, saying it was unlikely that any pub could afford to open for 24 hours. "The costs of doing so would just be too great," Tony Payne, of the FLVA, said.

The BPA survey of its members came as the industry faces intense pressure from the Government, which wants to clean up town centres of badly behaved binge drinkers. Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, called on the drinks industry to help foot the bill for the extra policing costs for extended opening hours. Ms Jowell said she wanted the industry to make a voluntary contribution towards meeting the extra costs, but warned that the Government was prepared to target "negligent" landlords with a compulsory levy for policing.

"I think the drinks industry should contribute to the costs of keeping order in city centres and think that we should very much target that responsibility on those negligent licensees, while not taking action against the majority who run premises responsibly," she told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme. "We expect them on a voluntary basis to make a contribution to the costs of running what is called the night-time economy."

She also called on the pubs industry to spread good practice on responsible drinking, which at the moment she said was "patchy". "It is not moving fast enough. We want them to move faster," she said.

The BPA said it would fight any moves to introduce a compulsory levy on the industry for policing costs. "The police should use the existing powers they have to tackle offenders," the BPA spokeswoman said, adding that the pubs industry already contributes £22bn in duty on alcohol sales.

The new licensing act will give local authorities powers to suspend licences from pubs operators up to a year if they are found to be trading irresponsibly.

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