Queen's Speech to include legislation on 24-hour pubs

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Indy Politics

Legislation to reform Britain's antiquated licensing laws and introduce all-night drinking are to be included in the next Queen's Speech.

Legislation to reform Britain's antiquated licensing laws and introduce all-night drinking are to be included in the next Queen's Speech.

A Licensing Bill to implement proposals in last year's White Paper on reform will be introduced in the next session of parliament. Ministers believe the success of the relaxation in licensing laws at New Year, which resulted in a drop in drink-related trouble, has helped make the case for reform.

Changes to licensing laws were included in Labour's general election manifesto, and were promised in text messages to thousands of first-time voters before last year's poll.

Messages reminded young Labour supporters to tell their friends: "give us ur xxxx on thrsdy. vote for schs, hsptls and lngr licensing hrs. vote labour" or "cdnt give a xxxx 4 lst ordrs? vote labour on thrsdy 4 xtra time".

But ministers were criticised when the measure did not appear in the Queen's Speech last year, amid claims that ministers had misled young voters. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has now won a slot for legislation in the next session of Parliament.

A consultation document published last year proposed a single system of licences for selling alcohol, food and entertainment, with each including conditions on hours, noise limits and capacity.

Flexible opening hours would do away with the current strict rules on pub opening, with pubs allowed to open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, depending on local residents.

Other proposed reforms include transferring licensing powers to local authorities, instead of magistrates and increasing access for children to encourage family-friendly pubs.

Licensed retailers and the police welcomed the proposals yesterday, arguing that more flexibility in opening hours would cut crime and reduce overcrowding in urban centres.

A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Assocation, which has lobbied for change, said: "If the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has secured a place in the Queen's Speech then I'm sure that landlords will be raising a glass to [the government minister] Kim Howells and his colleagues."

The Association of Chief Police Officers also backed the proposal, while warning that 24-hour drinking would not be permitted at all venues.

A spokesman said: "We support the removal of the rigid permitted hours which are so clearly linked to peaks of crime and disorder."

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