LABOUR IS “IN DENIAL” ABOUT BOOZE
…violence caused by 24-hour licensing
Labour is "in denial" about the misery caused by 24-hour drinking. Ministers were forced to admit that there is 25% more serious violence in the early hours of the morning – and that a promised reduction in alcohol-fuelled disorder has not materialised. They even threatened the "wholesale withdrawal of licences" in town centres where drinking is out of control.
The first government studies of the impact of the new laws – forced through by Labour despite widespread opposition – found the number of more serious violent crimes had leapt by 25% between 3-6am, suggesting street brawls had been displaced into the early hours. Police have warned they are so busy dealing with violence in the early hours there are barely any officers to patrol during the day.
While a selective study of A&E departments found no evidence of increased admissions nationwide, one London hospital said alcohol-related admissions had jumped threefold, and a town not named in the Home Office study reported a doubling in admissions
The London Ambulance Service said there had been 2% increase in alcohol-related call-outs in the first 10 months of the relaxation – followed by a further 10% jump between November 2006 and October 2007.
RESEARCH OMITTED FROM REPORT
Liberal Democrat spokesman Don Foster pointed to damning research not included in yesterday’s report. It includes a Parliamentary answer showing A&E admissions jumped from 127,143 in the year before the changes to 162,080 last year. "Ministers told us the Act would reduce drunken disorder, binge-drinking and underage drinking,â€ť he said. "In reality we’ve seen a rise in violent crimes late at night, too many licensed premises still selling to children and soaring alcohol-related A&E admissions."
Despite the emerging picture of police and health resources stretched to breaking point by Binge Britain, culture secretary Andy Burnham said the Licensing Act in November 2005 "has not led to the widespread problems some feared". Shadow Home Secretary David Davis responded that ministers were "deluding themselves".
Critics questioned whether the threat of widespread closures would ever materialise. Opposition MPs said existing powers – such as punishing pubs which sell alcohol to people who are already drunk – had been used rarely. They also said the new "two strikes and you’re out" policy for those who sell alcohol to minors was actually a softening of the current position. In 2005, the Culture Department said courts could suspend or withdraw licences for a first offence.
The British Beer and Pub Association said there had been no surge in trade following the relaxation and 27 pubs a week closed down last year – 14 times the rate in 2005.
INSIDE A BINGE DRINKER
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