The landmark changes to licensing laws that were introduced a decade ago have been hailed as a success by a think tank.

According to the Institute of Economic Affairs, the introduction of 24-hour drinking in 2005 led to "one of the great moral panics of our time".

However, director of lifestyle economics Christopher Snowdon said the "doom mongers" have ultimately been proven wrong, as the relaxation of licensing laws was possibly "the best thing the Labour Party ever did".

He stated that the biggest consequence of easing the restrictions on licensed premises has been "that the public are now better able to enjoy a drink at the time and location of their choice".

Mr Snowdon pointed out that the Labour Party's aim was to diversify the night-time economy, improve public order and allow greater freedom of choice. As a result, he believes the Licensing Act has been a "qualified success" when measured against these criteria.

He went on to cite official figures showing that excessive drinking among 16 to 24-year-olds has fallen from 29 per cent to 18 per cent during the last ten years.

Furthermore, he noted that figure now stands at 19 per cent among 25 to 44-year-olds, compared with 25 per cent a decade ago. This coincided with a 28 per cent decline in crime "generally aggravated by alcohol".

Mr Snowdon acknowledged it is impossible to determine whether the Licensing Act contributed to these trends.

However, he said even a "cautious interpretation" of the data suggests the change in the law did not adversely affect health and public order.

Robert Botkai, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors, commented: "A slightly bizarre take on the Licensing Act from Mr Snowden. He cites a reduction in excessive drinking amongst young people and goes on to describe the 'relaxation of licensing laws' as 'possibly the best thing the Labour Party ever did. At the same time Mr Snowden admits that it is impossible to conclude that the Licensing Act contributed to these trends. Forgive me for being confused. Perhaps education and responsible retailing has had an impact?"