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Britain braces for new drinking laws

About one third of all the pubs, clubs and shops in England and Wales licensed to sell alcohol will stay open for longer when the new drinking laws come into force at midnight on Wednesday, a BBC survey showed.
/ Source: Reuters

About one third of all the pubs, clubs and shops in England and Wales licensed to sell alcohol will stay open for longer when the new drinking laws come into force at midnight on Wednesday, a BBC survey showed.

The government says that under the existing system, drinkers spill out onto the street at the same time when pubs close, fuelling drunken fights and vandalism.

But the country’s senior judges and police have warned the new rules, which will allow pubs and bars to stay open for longer and close at different times, could make an already serious problem worse.

According to the BBC survey, more than 56,000 outlets will be allowed to sell alcohol for longer and this could rise up to 70,000.

It said only 359 pubs or clubs would get 24-hour licenses.

The government, under fire from the opposition Conservative party over the new rules, has launched a campaign to crackdown on binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled violence and has given police stronger powers to tackle the problem.

Police will target drunken behavior with on-the-spot fines and rely on intelligence-led work to identify downtown venues that cause problems for the local community.

Licensing minister James Purnell said he was confident the new rules would help reduce the trouble associated with the “chucking out” time although he admitted they would probably result in an immediate rise in drink-related arrests.

“There is a possibility that the number of offences will increase,” he said. “That in itself could be a sign of success because more people are using the powers of the Act.”