Liquor licensing reform appears to be edging back on to the government's agenda. It is obviously not a high priority given its omission from the Government's legislative timetable set out in the Queen's Speech, but insiders are now talking of only a year's wait rather then the two or more suggested just a week or so ago.

The new culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, who has taken on responsibility for licensing from the Home Office, has said that the government needs to look at reform in the context of revitalising British tourism, and has hinted that legislation will probably take the form of an Alcohol and Entertainment Bill. The police, after all, have already been given most of the powers to control pubs and alcohol in the original reform plans through other legislation.

In the meantime, the main opponents of shifting control of licensing from magistrates to local councils, led by Wetherspoon's Tim Martin and Stuart Neame of Shepherd Neame, hope to get their alternative licensing reform proposals put before Parliament as a Private Member's Bill.

Their efforts are, however, likely to remain a side show. They face the obstacles of first finding a sponsor, official government opposition and even if they gain some momentum being bogged down by anti-alcohol members of the House of Lords.

Their most valuable role will be to keep the debate stoked.

A major flaw of their approach is also that it is essentially a pub solution, taking little regard for the late-night or even restaurant dimension of licensing. Allies from those wings of the industry would gain them more credibility.

One of the main requirements of licensing reform is a coming together and simplification of a complex system of different licences and permissions, no matter who controls it. That should be the focus of the mainstream trade association in the coming months.

The delay does give the industry time to regroup and to address one of the most contentious aspects of the planned legislation to date û central government's operational guidelines to the licensing authorities.

There will now be time to draw up and debate their content before the full Bill comes to Parliament.

The other crucial task is to pull together both industry and Governmental support. It appears reform has backers in unexpected areas.

It seems that Margaret Becket's new Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs argued for reform to be in the Queen's Speech as it believes it still has a watching brief over pubs, inherited from the old Ministry of Agriculture. Illogical as that may seem, reformers shouldn't knock it. They still need all the friends they can get.