All-night drinking Bill after election

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Plans to allow pubs, restaurants and off-licences to open round the clock will be outlined in a White Paper this week.

Plans to allow pubs, restaurants and off-licences to open round the clock will be outlined in a White Paper this week.

The most sweeping reforms of the licensing laws for more than 40 years would be included in Labour's first Queen's Speech if the party was to win the general election, expected to be held on 7 June. The Tories have dismissed the proposals as pre-election "opportunism".

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, will argue that scrapping the traditional fixed closing times will help to curb "binge drinking". Closing times would be staggered on police advice, to stop rowdy drinkers emptying into the streets at once.

Although licensees would be able to apply to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, local residents would be able to block their application if it would affect them.

The shake-up, which would apply in England and Wales, would be balanced by police powers to act against problem landlords and drinkers. "We need to encourage a responsible attitude to drinking and end the culture of the last orders' binge," a Home Office source said yesterday.

Safeguards in the Government's Crime and Disorder Bill, now going through Parliament, include on-the-spot fines and powers to ban drinking in areas or shut "problem pubs". A new split licensing system would require landlords and their premises to be given separate permits. A "three-strikes-and-out" policy would stop landlords who have lost their licences opening up elsewhere.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said the move would help the police to control trouble-makers by discouraging binge drinking.

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