This reform of licensing hours is overdue. It should not be diluted

Share

To be forced to retreat from one liberal reform - on gambling - because of a media-led outcry may be regarded as a misfortune. To be forced to retreat from two looks very much like carelessness - or rank incompetence. Yet what did we see yesterday, but a trio of ministers brandishing new weapons against drink-related street disorder? When the new law on flexible drinking hours comes into force in two weeks' time, it will be accompanied by provisions for designating "alcohol disorder zones" and imposing "drinking banning orders" to deal with rowdy premises or people.

To be forced to retreat from one liberal reform - on gambling - because of a media-led outcry may be regarded as a misfortune. To be forced to retreat from two looks very much like carelessness - or rank incompetence. Yet what did we see yesterday, but a trio of ministers brandishing new weapons against drink-related street disorder? When the new law on flexible drinking hours comes into force in two weeks' time, it will be accompanied by provisions for designating "alcohol disorder zones" and imposing "drinking banning orders" to deal with rowdy premises or people.

It could have been worse. Advance reports suggested that the Government planned to levy a fee on pubs, clubs or whole districts to pay for additional policing in places where the nightlife was likely to prove troublesome. What it has actually announced is a "yellow card" system that will give landlords time to put their houses in order before they, or the district, are liable for the new payments.

That the new provisions are not as sweeping as feared, however, is no recommendation. They are quite simply a last-minute fudge designed to placate the maximum number of interests. Ministers clearly hope that they will be limited enough not to alienate the drinks industry, the pubs, the clubs and their clientele, while being sufficiently tough to keep at bay the senior police officers, the law and order lobby and the temperance brigade. Especially they must hope that they will silence those sections of the right-wing press that have whipped up the hue and cry against any reform of the law.

For the Government to have to rush out new measures to salvage its legislation at this late stage, however, smacks of desperation. It also sends a highly confused message about its thinking. One purpose of relaxing the licensing hours in the first place was to stagger the closing times and end the situation where everyone spills out into the streets the worse for wear at the same hour of the night. The idea was to encourage a Continental type of café culture, reduce bingeing on alcohol and make the streets safer late at night.

Rather than press home this message, with positive examples from the liberalisation of drinking hours in Scotland, however, the Government allowed itself to be forced on to the defensive. Licensing flexibility was presented by the Daily Mail and others as certain to lead to a 24-hour free-for-all. Longer hours, they argued, would only intensify Britain's collective alcohol problem; huge numbers of additional police would be needed. Those who supported more civilised drinking hours were dismissed as being in the pocket of the drinks industry - or deluded.

It is easy to forget that when the law to extend licensing hours was passed two years ago, it was welcomed as the overdue modernisation of hopelessly obsolete regulations. This is still the case, and the fact that there are some trouble-spots and some reprehensible behaviour does not mean that there should be no reform. It is sad to see a government which so prided itself on its ability to persuade, come so close to losing its nerve.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Foundation and KS1 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The racist abuse of Mario Balotelli on Twitter is disgusting, but it can be stopped

Anna Jonsson
A survey by Which? found that some of the UK’s biggest airports, including Heathrow, left travellers the most agitated  

Third-runway momentum is gathering. We need to stop it in its tracks

Mary Dejevsky
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments