Licensing laws ‘have had little effect’

A year on from the introduction of new 24-hour drinking laws, government figures suggest the expected “explosion” in bars and clubs open all hours has not happened.

Just two per cent – about 3,000 – licensed premises have taken advantaged of being able to serve alcohol around the clock, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

One fifth of pubs, bars and clubs continue to call last orders at 11 and about half are shut by midnight. Four fifths of pubs, bars and clubs close by 1am at the latest.

A separate YouGov poll for the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) finds 85 per cent of people say the new drinking laws have made no difference to how often they go out, although a significant proportion of young people are going and staying out later.

“This survey shows that in contrast to the apocalyptic predictions of the doom and gloom merchants, the change in our licensing laws has not unleashed a free-for-all,” said BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward.

However, the Conservatives demanded the government publish accurate and up to date figures about the levels of drink-related crime since the new licensing laws – which they opposed – came into effect in November last year.

“We are hearing lots about ‘anecdotal evidence’, but the only hard figures we have showed an increase in the level of disorder. We need to know exactly what is happening on the streets nationwide,” said shadow culture secretary Hugo Swire.

He expressed concern that the government had stopped funding the alcohol misuse enforcement campaigns, and forces were now expected to include this kind of work in their everyday policing arrangements.

Mr Swire also warned that despite government claims that the changes would make life quieter and safer for local people by giving police new powers to shut down premises, communities were in reality being shut out of the system.

“Many local residents are powerless to object to noisy or rowdy venues. The recent case of a couple faced with legal bills of over £29,000 for opposing a late licence at the local pub shows just how weighted the system is against local communities,” he said.

However, licensing minister Shaun Woodward said although it was too early to properly asses the impact of 24-hour drinking legislation, “there are encouraging signs that the new laws are working”.

“Residents and others are triggering reviews of licences. The police are using the tougher closure powers. And responsible adults are enjoying greater choice and freedom in how they spend their leisure time.”

DCMS figures show there have been about 600 reviews of licences in the past year, which resulted in about 100 being revoked.