Blunkett bid to halt 24-hour drinking

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Home Officials tried to block the Government's much-criticised plan to abolish pub opening hours, fearing that it could lead to increased crime and be a nuisance to people living near pubs.

Home Officials tried to block the Government's much-criticised plan to abolish pub opening hours, fearing that it could lead to increased crime and be a nuisance to people living near pubs.

Details of the Home Office objections have emerged from papers leaked to The Sunday Times, dating from when David Blunkett was home secretary. Mr Blunkett warned against the idea in a letter to Tony Blair, saying that it was a "leap in the dark" that risked "worsening the situation" of yobbish behaviour and violent crime in inner cities."

He was following up the advice of his own senior officials, including Ellie Roy, the director of crime reduction at the Home Office. She said in February"robust arrangements" were needed to tackle drink-related crime and that there were "widespread concerns" that change in the law would make matters worse.

But a note by officials at the Department of Culture said: "Reform of outdated licensing laws is a key manifesto commitment and there is increasing pressure from the centre [Downing Street] to have the transitional arrangements in place and completed by the middle of 2005."

In today's Observer, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, said that the real problem was "happy hour" deals involving free or cheap drinks, which are "aggressively marketed".

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