The Prime Minister admitted in his conference speech yesterday that the controversial 24-hour drinking law introduced by his party in 2005 is “not working”.
Gordon Brown told his party that local authorities would be given “power to ban 24-hour drinking throughout a community in the interests of local people”.
Currently local authorities cannot issue a blanket ban on late-night licences, and have to consider each application on its merits.
Critics say the move would force the Government to “unpick its own reforms”.
All-day drinking laws were introduced in 2005 with a flagship piece of Government legislation.
At the time, it was promised that the change would bring about a continental-style café culture.
But police, doctors and local councils say the policy has failed to deliver.
A survey by the Local Government Association last year found that half of police officers thought the new laws had failed to reduce alcohol-related violence, simply pushing it later into the evening.
One in three NHS primary care trusts said they had seen an increase in alcohol-related violence since the law was changed.
The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank and file officers, has blamed 24-hour drinking for making some towns “like the Wild West”.
According to a survey published over the summer, almost one in three people consider drunkenness to be a big problem in their area.
Earlier this year the president of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Ian Gilmore, told MPs that the Department of Health’s efforts to reduce alcohol problems had been derailed by 24-hour drinking.
He said: “It was in my view unfortunate that the plan coincided with a change in licensing laws which made it easier for places to stay open longer, and made it more difficult to turn down applications for licences, with no need to take public health into account.”
Prof Gilmore said that up to 40,000 deaths a year are caused by alcohol, including deaths from cancers, high blood pressure which leads to strokes and heart attacks, and violence.