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At last! An end to 24-hour drinking: Victory for the Mail as ministers pledge to scrap Labour's failed licensing laws



By James Slack, Home Affairs Editor

Last updated at 11:09 AM on 22nd July 2010



A war on Booze Britain will dismantle Labour's failed 24-hour drinking laws and ban the sale of dirt-cheap alcohol.


Ministers are to introduce powers to stem the drink-fuelled violence which has turned town centres into 'wild west' zones.


They hope this will herald the return of the traditional pub, in which the public can drink without fear of assault or abuse.


Crucially, town halls will be able to reinstate traditional closing times in areas where late-night opening, introduced by the last government in 2005, is causing havoc.


article-0-0356B2740000044D-43_468x286.jpg 'Wild West': 24-hour drinking has turned city and town centres into no-go areas for law-abiding citizens (picture posed by models)


Labour had claimed that more relaxed opening times would lead to a continental-style 'cafe culture'. But ministers say this has been proved a nonsense.


In future, bars that do stay open late will have to pay a levy to put extra police on the streets.


Supermarkets will be barred from selling alcohol for less than cost price. And pubs which sell drink to children repeatedly will be shut down.

Labour had threatened to ban the sale of alcohol below cost-price. But the threat was never implemented.






Supermarkets began selling alcohol cheaper than bottled water, as stores used drink as a so-called loss leader to lure in customers.

But police warned it was falling into the hands of the young, who used it to ‘preload’, before going drunk to town centres.

Some retailers are likely to protest, but officials said they had the chance to behave responsibly and did not take it.

Rank-and-file police say the combination of late opening and ‘pre-loading’ has stretched their resources to breaking point, warning that some town centres have been turned into the ‘wild west’.


A Whitehall shake-up has cleared the path for the blitz against one of the last government’s most controversial laws.

Labour had allowed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which has no policing or law-and-order responsibilities, to force through the relaxation of pub opening times, despite opposition.

But yesterday, control over licensing was grabbed back by Theresa May’s Home Office.


This frees her to dismantle Labour’s regime without having to fight Whitehall turf wars with a culture department which critics considered lax.


A bill will be introduced after MPs’ summer recess, and should become law next year.

Mrs May’s blitz represents a victory for the Daily Mail which, backed by police, doctors and judges, has vigorously campaigned against the relaxation of regulations.

Only last week it emerged that the percentage of violence linked to alcohol was rising, and had reached 50 per cent.

Licensing minister, James Brokenshire,said the Coalition would begin ridding the streets of alcohol-fuelled violence.

‘The Government believes that the power to make licensing decisions needs to be rebalanced in favour of local communities, so that they can decide on the night-time economy they want.’

Labour had made it hard for councils to refuse late-night licences. In particular, town halls could not refuse a pub a licence on the grounds that a street or town centre was saturated with bars and clubs.

This Government wants the situation reversed, in favour of councils fixing opening times. A bar could be turned down if homes were surrounded by pubs.


In some areas, locals could reinstate traditional closing times.

The late-night levy would hit bars which stay open after midnight. Cash will be paid into a pot held by councils, which can plough the money into extra policing or improving life for nearby residents.



It is hoped the threat of ‘meaningful’ penalties which could run into thousands, will persuade rowdy pubs to change their ways.

Late opening accounts for about a quarter of the police’s £400million overtime bill.

Taxes will also be imposed on strong lagers blamed for problem drinking. Last night, Mr Brokenshire said: 'We will overhaul the Licensing Act to give local authorities and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to, any premises that are causing problems.

'We will toughen the sanctions for those premises found to be persistently selling alcohol to children and will allow local councils to charge more for late-night licences, which in turn will raise money for extra policing. We will also ban the below-cost sale of alcohol.’

Belatedly, Gordon Brown did acknowledge 24-hour drinking had failed. He ordered a review of the policy. But all it recommended was a three-hour reduction in opening times in problem areas.

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