Tuesday 4 March 2008

Two Cheers for Licensing Reform

So it's a kind of success, sort of, we think. Thus spake the Government having reviewed the Licensing Act 2003 which became operational on 24th November 2005.

The key outcomes are that crime and alcohol consumption are down overall, but some areas have seen a rise in disorder and drink-related violence in the early hours. The press driven myth of 24 hour opening is exposed as lies as anyone with any sense already knew. Most 24 hour licenses have gone to hotels (for residents only), with the next biggest group being supermarkets. A very small number has gone to pubs and most of these never use the extended hours anyway. The average length of time a pub stays open later than it used to is a conservative 21 minutes!

I am glad that there will be little meddling in the new act or its operation. The Government is quite right in saying it gives powers to Local Government to curb the worst excesses of licensed premises, if only they would use them. I have no time at all for the disingenuous mouthpiece that represents the Local Government Association (Sir Simon Milton). It is his Local Authorities that allow the late opening, that set the licensing objectives, that allow ghettos of "youth bars", all next door to each other and that fail to use the powers allocated to them under the Act. (They had already allowed these places to open to 2 or 3 in the morning under the previous Act.) If the new Act hasn't curbed binge drinking, how much blame can we attach to Simon and his pals?

Those of us who drink in pubs have enjoyed a modest relaxation of licensing hours. For us it has been successful. It isn't the local pub that is causing problems in town and city centres. Most of the problems come from loud bars selling cheap booze to irresponsible young drunks at a time when almost every pub has long since closed for the night.

As Tim Martin, Chairman of Wetherspoons said: "People need to be re-educated about their drinking habits..... you have to persuade people it's a bad idea to get paralytic." Exactly!


Anonymous said...

This evening I saw a Five News bulletin about this that really wound me up. It emphasised the fact that violent, alcohol-related crime between 3 and 6 am has risen in some places, but completely neglected to mention the fact that alcohol consumption and alcohol-related crime overall has fallen. Selective reporting by stupid journalists, perpetuating the myth that over-regulation is the way to go, when a sensible assessment of the facts would show that the new licensing laws are a good thing. Grrr!

Anonymous said...

Tandleman, don't fall for the Trojan Horse. Beware pieces of the prohibition jigsaw, the binge drinkers are our buffer state

Boak said...

Yes, the interesting thing about this report has been the reactions to it; basically, all the usual lobbyists have used the elements they want from it to argue their point.

It's clear from reading the report itself that very little has changed in our drinking culture - for better or for worse.

Anonymous said...

The fact that very little may have changed (though give it time) is a good thing in itself - it demonstrates that a small increase in freedom isn't immediately going to result in anarchy.

Sat In A Pub said...

As you say it isn't the local pub cauisng these problems. As usual, central goverment are just flailing around without a clue. Now if they actually asked the people who knew anything about pubs, alcohol etc they might get somewhere. Fat chance!