Trade leaders have met with Kim Howells (pictured), newly appointed minister responsible for licensing, to urge him to help push reform through Parliament.
The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association (BLRA) became the first industry group to meet with Dr Howells at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)on June 26.
Mark Hastings, spokesman for the BLRA, said the minister had recognised at the meeting that by omitting licensing reform from the Queen's Speech the Government had been seen by the public as failing on an election promise.
He said: "The Government recognised it has a problem and needs to get it sorted. It has already begun an unofficial consultation with interested parties."
Mr Hastings said the two options currently on the table - taking the licensing bill through as a Private Members Bill or extending hours ahead of the full reform package using a deregulation order - were unlikely to be taken up by the DCMS.
"They are not seen as feasible or practical. Our understanding is that deregulation orders can take as long if not longer than primary legislation to go through Parliament," he said.
But Mr Hastings said he was hopeful that the pressure from the trade and the public, plus widespread support among all the major political parties for extended licensing hours could lead ministers to act.
It is possible for the Government to introduce Bills other than those included in the Queen's Speech during a Parliamentary session - although they are not given priority.
The DCMS is likely to spend the next fortnight meeting with interested parties before issuing a statement giving a timetable for reform.
Mr Hastings said the BLRA would continue to put pressure on the Government to act. He added: "In many ways the time for meetings is over, it is time now for action."
Tourism minister to be responsible for licensing (26 June, 2001)
Flexible hours still on agenda (21 June, 2001)
New sports minister "to be responsible for licensing" (18 June, 2001)
Licensing reform "to be shelved for at least two years" (17 June, 2001)
Licensing to shift from Home Office to culture ministry (12 June, 2001)