All night drinking agreed, but not in MPs' local pub

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair faced embarrassment over new laws to permit 24-hour drinking when it emerged that his local pub had been denied a licence extension.

The Red Lion on Whitehall, yards from Downing Street, applied for permission to open until 1am on Thursdays to Saturdays and to stage live music, karaoke and dancing.

But the pub, which is frequented by many MPs and Whitehall workers, was denied its licence extension on the grounds of "public nuisance" and "public safety", according to documents obtained by the Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act.

The pub became famous as the spot where Charlie Whelan, a Treasury spin doctor, briefed journalists by telephone that Gordon Brown was ruling out entry to the euro in 1997. Mr Blair later telephoned Mr Whelan at the pub to find out what the Government's policy was on the issue. Yesterday Opposition MPs attempted to derail the planned reform of the licensing laws by delaying its introduction until June. Theresa May, the shadow Culture Secretary, said: "The news that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will be able to get a good night's sleep is of no comfort to the local residents on the receiving end of Labour's yob culture. Most people won't be as lucky as Downing Street's tenants.

"These laws threaten an explosion in public nuisance and violent crime across the country - but not for Labour ministers, who don't want it in their backyard." The Prime Minister's official spokesman refused to say whether Mr Blair was disappointed by the decision. "That is entirely a matter for the police and licensing authority and therefore they should not take it out on me when I next go there for a drink."

Conservatives, with backing from the Liberal Democrats, yesterday attempted to derail the start of the new licensing regime, which comes into force next week. But ministers insisted the Licensing Act was essential to allow police to crack down on problem pubs and bars. They launched the annual Christmas campaign against binge-drinking and rogue licensees.

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, rejected Opposition moves to delay the Act's implementation. She said: "If the Government were to lose this tonight, it would send the strongest possible signal to those yobs who make towns and city centres a misery for the majority who want a quiet night out that we are not serious about tackling alcohol-fuelled crime and violence."

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