Delay plea on flexible drinking

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair is facing a growing cross-party campaign to delay the introduction of round-the-clock drinking laws next month.

Tony Blair is facing a growing cross-party campaign to delay the introduction of round-the-clock drinking laws next month.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, tabled a Commons motion calling for the new flexible drinking hours to be put on hold. The Tory-led campaign marked a U-turn for the Conservatives but it had the backing of some Labour MPs and Liberal Democrats.

Mr Davis said: "The Government should delay 24-hour opening until we conquer binge drinking. Tony Blair has had seven years to sort out binge drinking - but the problem is only getting worse." Mr Blair defended the measure in the House of Commons yesterday when he came under fire from the Labour backbench MP David Winnick. The Prime Minister said that it would be wrong to deny the majority of people the relaxed hours enjoyed elsewhere in Europe because of a "tiny minority" of violent binge drinkers.

The Tories are hoping the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, will be forced into another retreat like the one over super casinos, as opposition to the measure mounts in the run-up to the general election. The Tories supported the Licensing Act when it was introduced in July 2003. But Mr Davis, who took over the home affairs portfolio from John Whittingdale in November that year, hardened Conservative policy against flexible drinking hours.

His aides said last night: "David hasn't changed his mind on this. We supported the Licensing Act but we did not have all the information. We knew the Metropolitan Police had made a statement to the Home Office but that was not published, nor was the evidence from Scotland.

"We have got more information available now. There is going to be increasing concern in the Labour Party."

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