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Britons 'Fear Longer Pub Opening'

BBC News, Jan. 24, 2005

Almost two-thirds of Britons believe extended pub opening hours will make the country a worse place to live, according to a poll for the BBC.

Some 67% thought anti-social behaviour would increase with 24-hour opening, due later in 2005, in the ICM poll of over 1,000 adults for BBC Breakfast.

The government has said disorderly pubs will get "yellow card" warnings before being forced to fund extra policing.

Customers often drunk and in trouble could be barred from all local pubs.

Police and trading standards officers will also have the power to ban premises from selling alcohol for 24 hours where there is evidence they are persistently selling to under-18s.

'Pub flexibility'

The rules will apply in designated Alcohol Disorder Zones, where there is a particular problem with drunken behaviour.

In the ICM poll, more than half of men thought the licensing changes would make Britain a worse place, while 70% of women thought that would be the case.

People on higher incomes were more in favour of 24-hour opening than lower-earners.

But a spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said there was a lot of confusion about what the new flexible licensing hours would achieve.

"This measure is not about 24-hour drinking," she said.

"As industry representatives, the British Beer & Pub Association said last week as far as they are aware not one pub intends opening for 24 hours.

"What pubs want is the flexibility to provide more choice after 11pm.

"The act will give people more freedom to enjoy a drink when they want, tackle the problem of disorder caused by universal closing times and, for the first time, give local residents the chance to have a say in the opening hours of their local pubs."

'Prudent'

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said his party favoured a delay on introducing the new licensing laws.

He said: "It would clearly be prudent to allow the police and local authorities more time to prepare for flexible drinking hours.

"The government's plans for a levy on the drinking industry also need to be worked through in detail before any new licenses are granted."

Mr Oaten's remarks follow calls from the Tories and Britain's most senior police officer, Met chief Sir John Stevens, to put the new law on hold.

Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk/4200695.stm


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