Published: 06/01/2005, Volume II5, No. 5937 Page 8

Between Christmas and New Year, outgoing Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir John Stevens provoked a storm by urging the government to slow its plans to introduce 24hour boozing.

Sir John told the BBC that permitting pubs and clubs to stay open all day would divert officers from other crucial areas.

The Licensing Act 2003, due to be introduced over three years from next month, will give authorities the power to grant 24-hour alcohol licences.

But Sir John warned: 'The fact that large groups of people will be coming out at 3am or 4am will mean that we have to man the streets to ensure they behave.'

Days later, medics weighed in to support Sir John. Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of the Royal College of Physicians' alcohol committee, urged ministers to 'think again'.

Licensing minister Richard Caborn said the police and local councils would be given greater powers to deal with irresponsible licensees.