24-hour drinking laws may be axed

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Indy Politics

Britain's 24-hour licensing laws could be axed after the new coalition Government ordered a wholesale review.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she is determined to examine problems created by the "binge-drinking culture", including street violence and other crimes.

Speaking at the Police Federation conference, she said she opposed the 2003 Licensing Act when it was introduced by the previous administration.

Questioned by a police officer in the audience about the problems caused by heavy drinking, Mrs May confirmed that a review is under way.

She said: "We are going to look at the licensing laws. I was in opposition when the new laws were introduced and I argued against them.

"I argued that those were the sorts of problems that would come about but I was told we would have a cafe culture. We think they have produced problems on the streets.

"There are some other issues to look at around the binge drinking culture that has grown up. We think it is right that we do review these laws."

Earlier this month, Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said relaxing the nation's licensing laws was partly to blame for incidents of violence on the streets.

He was sentencing a man after a violent attack in Bournemouth, where the Police Federation conference is taking place, which has a massive night-time economy.

A 2008 Government review of the new laws recorded that crime and alcohol consumption are down overall but some areas have been blighted by disorder.

The then Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said councils and police must do more to use "considerable powers" available to them to tackle the problem.

The laws allowed pubs and clubs in England and Wales to apply for later, or even 24-hour, licences to serve alcohol.

It was intended to usher into Britain a continental-style cafe culture, but critics have repeatedly pointed out this has not been the reality.

Asked by reporters later if 24-hour drinking was likely to be scrapped, Mrs May said she wants to see the results of the review.

She said: "We are having a complete review over licensing laws but I am not going to talk about what is going to come out of that review.

"This is an evidence-based approach rather than pulling an answer to that question out of the top of my head.

"It is important that the review is allowed to go ahead."