Hopes that reform of the outdated licensing laws could be under way soon have been dashed. Licensing minister Kim Howells said this week that a draft bill may go before parliament next spring but the industry is pessimistic that the bill will make it into next year's Queen Speech. A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which took on the responsibility of licensing from the Home Office, said: "The government wanted to concentrate on public services and this had to make way for it, but work is still in progress." A spokesman for the brewers' organisation, the British Beer and Pub Association, said: "It is clear Kim Howells sees the bill as a longer term goal rather than a short term prospect. The events of September 11 mean the government has higher priorities for its legislative programme. "We could have a draft bill by the middle of next year but a place in the 2002 Queen's Speech is unlikely." The ministry has just sent out drafting instructions which means consultation is about to get under way. The trade is hoping the bill will simplify the licensing process for alcohol, moving it from magistrates to local authorities, with the introduction of licences for individuals rather than specific premises. It also wants central government to set the fees rather than leave it to individual authorities. {{NEWS }}