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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         Phil's Diary September 14, 2009



Turning back the clock

So, New Temperance has bounced back from the summer hols fully invigorated and a few strides further down Prohibition Road.

Most of the media attention surrounding the British Medical Association report on the impact of alcohol marketing on young people, titled Under the Influence, has focused on its call for an advertising ban. So Iíll ignore that, at least for now. For one thing Iím more bothered about one of the other recommendations.

The BMA wants a reduction in licensing hours, effectively reversing the liberalising aspect of the 2003 Licensing Act. This of course fits with New Temperance orthodoxy which seeks to restrict availability of alcohol in order to achieve an overall reduction in consumption. Hereís the BMAís rationale:

The liberalisation of licensing laws has also contributed to the excessively pro-alcohol social norms in the UK, and resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of venues catering specifically for the young. In addition, recent years have seen the introduction of a range of novel drinks such as alcopops and shooters (cocktails served in a shot glass), many of which have a particular appeal to young people.

The explosion in YPVs Ė young peropleís venues Ė began about a decade before the 2003 Licensing Act came into force and had other causes I wonít go into here. Similarly, alcopops were introduced in 1995. In ďrecent yearsĒ sales have collapsed. Itís worth noting, too, that alcohol consumption is currently falling overall, and that fewer young people drink. Not quite symptomatic of a binge-drinking epidemic.

Generally, more flexible licensing has helped in the management of late-night disorder, and it has enabled pubs to tweak their opening hours to respond to customer demand, rather than some arbitrary legal restriction.

A night out in Brighton with police and licensing officials last week confirmed that flexible hours have been a positive thing. The councilís head of licensing is a big fan. Itís using up more police hours but disorder is down.

And on my way home, at 1.30am, I was able to have a pint in one of my locals, about a mile from the city centre, which is closed till 5pm but is open till 3am. It was packed.

The 2003 Act isnít perfect, but itís clearly progress.

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