Tourism minister Kim Howells has been given responsibility for licensing in its new home at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
Dr Howells, who is Labour MP for Pontypridd in Wales, is already minister for tourism, film and broadcasting, so taking responsibility for licensing will add to his bulging portfolio, which could increase the trade's fears that licensing reform will be severely delayed.
During the Government's last term in office, Dr Howells was a parliamentary under-secretary in the Department of Trade and Industry. There he had responsibility for consumers and corporate affairs, including proposals for a compulsory 100 per cent liquid pint.
The trade hit out last week over the Government's decision not to include the licensing reform package in the Queen's Speech.
The omission was blamed on a lack of Parliamentary time but insiders have hinted that it was made following in-fighting within the trade over plans to move licensing control to local authorities.
The failure to include licensing in the speech is likely to delay reform by a minimum of two years, and with a phasing-in period for the new system almost inevitable, it could be a further 18 months before licensees see the benefit.
But Tim Martin, chairman of pub chain JD Wetherspoon, said he was optimistic that the delay could lead ministers to consider extending hours ahead of the introduction of the reform package.
The Labour Party promised extended hours as part of its pre-election campaign and failure to deliver on this could be embarrassing for Tony Blair.
One option open to ministers is to extend hours by amending existing regulations, removing the need for a new Bill to pass through Parliament.