§ Mr. Charles Clarke
It is generally a requirement in law, and is in any case the normal court practice, to consider any objections made by the police with regard to the prevention of crime and disorder before licensing justices and magistrates courts grant permission for any licensed premises or registered members' clubs to open beyond normal permitted hours.
Reducing alcohol-related crime and disorder is a key consideration in the proposals for modernising the licensing laws in England and Wales set out in the White Paper "Time for Reform" (Cm 4696). In addition, we set out a major programme to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder in the Home Office action plan on alcohol-related crime, launched on 3 August. The plan promotes action against underage drinking, public drunkenness and alcohol-related violence, to address the crime and other anti-social behaviour that is often associated with alcohol abuse.
§ Mr. Mike O'Brien
A consultation paper setting out our proposal to amend the Licensing Act 1964 to allow on-licensed premises and registered members' clubs to sell alcohol throughout the night on each New Year's Eve was published on 9 November 1998. It also sought views on a more modest proposal to relax the hours by extending them by five hours. The consultation ended on 12 February 1999. There were 313 responses to the consultation paper444W75 supported all night relaxation every New Year's Eve (mainly licensed trade and local authorities);115 supported all-night relaxation for Millennium Eve but did not offer a view on subsequent New Year's Eves (mainly members of the Campaign for Real Ale);21 supported a five-hour relaxation for every New Year's Eve (mainly local authorities);Seven supported longer hours but expressed no preference over how long; 33 supported longer hours, but only for Millennium Eve (mainly police, courts and local authorities);49 opposed both options (mainly residents' associations and local authorities);Eight opposed both options for Millennium Eve but did not offer a view on subsequent New Year's Eves; andFive expressed no clear view.
After considering a report of the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee on these proposals, the Government decided to restrict the relaxation of hours under the Deregulation (Millennium Licensing) Order 1999 to the Eve of the Millennium only, with a view to bringing forward a further deregulation proposal in respect of future New Year's Eve, if the Order proved successful. It was subsequently not possible to bring forward a further proposal in respect of New Year's Eve this year for the reasons I set out in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Henderson) on 26 October 2000, Official Report, columns 204–05W.
Since Millennium Eve, I have received regular representations from the hospitality and leisure industry supporting the relaxation of licensing hours generally and on New Year's Eves; and from the Association of Chief Police Officers who consider that the Millennium celebrations were unique and atypical, and that a further test of relaxed hours is required at a normal New Year's Eve before decisions are made concerning others in the future.