PEOPLE in Darlington are largely against the Government's plans for 24-hour drinking, according to the town's Tory prospective parliamentary candidate.

Anthony Frieze spent Saturday afternoon in High Row canvassing shoppers' opinions on the subject. He said: "There was some division. I'd say the older generation were pretty much against it and that was less so with younger people. But with most people, once you talked the issue through, they were generally opposed to it."

Mr Frieze believes the proposed licensing changes could affect Darlington, where police acknowledge there is a problem with violence caused by binge drinking, and wants any new laws delayed.

He said: "Tony Blair is obsessed with creating a continental caf culture, but it is likely to turn more town centres into violent hell holes."

But Labour councillor Stephen Harker, Darlington Borough Council's cabinet member for licensing, said the proposals would be unlikely to affect Darlington.

"I think in a town the size of Darlington it's very unlikely that we'll see any pubs at all opening 24 hours a day. If there are longer drinking hours, then it's likely that people will drink the same amount of alcohol over a longer period of time, which could mean fewer problems."