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Purnell defends new licensing laws

12 July 2005

Licensing minister James Purnell has defended England and Wales's new licensing laws, dismissing claims they will fuel anti-social behaviour in town and city centres.

In a heated debate on the licensing regime in the House of Commons today, Purnell said the new laws would give councils powers to block openings and close down problem pubs.

Responding to Conservative MP David Evennett's concern over 24-hour drinking, Purnell said only a single application for 24-hour opening had to date been accepted from 60,000 applications.

The licensing minister also dismissed claims by Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster that guidance on saturation policy, which allows councils to refuse licences on the grounds there are too many pubs or bars in an area, needed clarification.

But Conservative leader Michael Howard reiterated his call for an extension to the current licence conversion deadline 6 August, citing that with 25 days to go just 20% of licence applications expected had been received.

Operators that miss the conversion deadline lose any guarantee of their current opening hours and operators conditions and instead will have to apply as if a new business.

The 2003 Licensing Act comes into force in England and Wales on 24 November this year.

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