An order enabling pubs and clubs to open from 11am on millennium eve until 11pm on new year's day - a total of 36 hours - was approved in the lords.
Lord Burlison, for the government, said it was unlikely many would chose to stay open throughout these hours. 'They are unlikely to have the staff or the customers to operate so long without a break. This order provides them with the opportunity to choose the opening times that are most convenient to them and their customers within the overall period allowed', he explained.
While the government hoped that longer hours would lead to more relaxed and civilised drinking, the order includes a system of restriction orders to protect local residents from disorder and undue disturbance.
He emphasised the order would not automatically extend the hours of a pub or club's entertainment licence.
'Events that require entertainment licences can present a greater risk to the public from noise and large crowds than extended drinking hours only. Local councils already have a discretion in respect of the duration of entertainment licences. The government believe that they should continue to exercise that discretion on the millennium eve', added Lord Burlison.