Parliament passes controversial Criminal Justice Bill
The controversial Criminal Justice and Police Act, which has been slammed by the trade for its strict controls on disorderly behaviour, has been passed by Parliament.
However, licensees may not have completely lost their battle to force the Government to consider their concerns.
Since the Act had its first reading in Parliament in January, industry leaders, particularly the Brewers and Licensed Retailers' Association (BLRA), have been campaigning for changes to be made to some of the measures it includes.
Licensees were particularly concerned about the powers that would allow the police to close pubs for 24 hours "if there is likely to be, or there is disorder on, or in the vicinity of, the premises and the closure of the premises is necessary in the interests of public safety".
This would mean pubs could be closed down for disorder that happens nearby but has nothing to do with their customers.
The Act was given Royal Assent on the last day before Parliament was dissolved for the run-up to the General Election, but copies of the Act are almost impossible to come by and as The Publican Newspaper went to press the exact wording of the new law was not known.
It is thought the part of the Act that refers to the police powers has been altered to read: "If there is disorder on, or in the vicinity of the premises, that is related to the premises."
Martin Rawlings, spokesman for the BLRA, said: "If this wording is included, and we're told it is, then we'll be very happy. It does make the connection between cause and effect which we have been striving to get from day one."
The Act also contains measures to introduce tougher penalties for licensees and barstaff who sell drink to underage customers or to customers who are already drunk, as well as tougher penalties for drunken offenders. The trade is concerned about the extra responsibility placed on licensees and barstaff to fight underage drinking, without the support of a national Government-approved proof-of-age card.
But licensees are being warned that the strict measures contained in the Act could just be the beginning if Labour win the election.
David Blunkett is hot favourite to take over Jack Straw's role as Home Secretary and industry insiders have said the move could be disastrous for the trade.
Mr Blunkett is known to be liberal on some issues but has a reputation for being tough on crime and particularly on yobbish or drunk and disorderly behaviour.
Insiders fear his appointment as Home Secretary could mean tougher reforms for the trade.