26 July 2007

IF Brown wants to truly combat problem drinking he needs to increase the price not be petty about the times people want to drink.

Alcohol (as a percentage of disposable income) is cheaper than for 50 years. If Brown wants to look at the causes of binge drinking he needs to look no further than the price...

24 hour opening has been a big success in reducing binge drinking. Alcohol related violent crime is lower than before the new licensing laws came in (yes there has been a small recent rise of 1% but the total is still lower than 2005 - we also have to take into account the fact that more police resources have been put into prosecuting offenders which would increase recorded offences and because the offences have been more spread out over the night - this also has helped police catch offenders) and the consumption of alcohol in clubs and bars has also fallen slightly by 1%. This is not surprising - as I have pointed out before, people are drinking later and more locally in quiet pubs where they can take their time over their drinks and have conversation rather than going to binge drinking establishments in town that have few seats, loud music and little to do other than partake in vertical drinking. We would be mad also to return to pressure points at 11pm and 2am that caused so much pressure and violence for taxi drivers, food retailers, police and other emergency services.

The proposals to regulate supermarket deals on alcohol, increase taxes on alcohol and increase the age to 21 for off-licence purchases are the right way to go if we want to tackle problem drinkers (retailers would then have no excuse whatsoever for selling to 16 year olds and the pub trade which is struggling (due to cheap take home booze, smuggling and smoking ban) would not be further harmed). The review called by Brown is ok if it is just to examine the evidence which will highlight all of the above, but if it is just to appease the Daily Mail, it is not only wrong, like the backwards step to reclassify cannabis to class B (cannabis use has dropped since laws were relaxed) - it is a dangerous political trap Brown has fallen into. Doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons is always bound to lose votes.


  1. Neil, I seem to recall you've been to Norway (as have I). I had an interesting discussion with a bloke I met there who was asking if we had all the same problems with binge drinking and loutish behaviour they do......and their alcohol taxes are way higher than ours.

    In a curious way, I felt quite at home in Norway when I saw all the drunks, a bit like in New Zealand when I saw all the young lads with loud cars cruising the streets.

    As usual, this government seems to favour more daft laws and taxes. Most of the behaviour problems that do exist are a result of illegal behaviour so why not enforce the laws we have?

  2. Yeah I was shocked at the binge drinking in Norway and Sweden - obviously taxes have a limited impact but I still think they can work.