UK: Drinking laws review backs 24-hour licensing

By | 5 March 2008

Around the clock drinking laws will continue in the UK, but with the added crackdown on sales of alcohol to underage drinkers, a government review has decided.

Licensing Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said yesterday (4 March) that, since 24-hour licensing was introduced in the UK three years ago, consumption of alcohol was down and crime had dropped, but there were still issues with alcohol-fuelled violence in the early hours of the morning.

Sutcliffe said: "I think it's a mixed situation, where in certain areas police and local authorities are working well, in others it is not. We are not complacent - we know we need to rebalance the Act in favour of better enforcement. Consumption is down and over-all crime is down, but there is a problem between 3am and 6am. We need to identify why that's a problem."

The law, which came into force in 2005, was introduced in the hope of instilling a continental café culture into England and Wales, allowing pubs and clubs to apply for either later licences or 24-hour licences to serve alcohol. However, despite these intentions, just 3% of establishments have reportedly applied for round-the-clock opening times.

What will be introduced will be a tougher system against landlords and shopkeepers breaching licensing laws by selling alcohol to underage drinkers. The Government said that it would firstly impose conditions and ultimately revoke licences.

The review also said that fines for people caught drinking in public places where it is banned will be increased from GBP500 (US$993) to GBP2,500.

Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the Local Government Association which represents local authorities, said the idea that late-night licences would end binge drinking had completely failed.

Milton added: "The problem is the availability of cheap alcohol from supermarkets and the fact that, actually, most teenagers are getting alcohol either from family members or from parents or from irresponsible shopkeepers."

Sectors: Beer & cider, Spirits, Wine

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