Labour’s all-day drinking laws have failed, the Home Secretary has said as she laid out plans to reform the licensing system.
Theresa May said 24-hour drinking has not lived up to the promised continental-style ‘café culture’ and added that the police and A&E units are left to clear up the effects of binge drinking.
Mrs May’s comments come as the Home Office announced a consultation to give communities a greater say over alcohol licences.
Fines for those who persistently sell booze to children would be doubled to £20,000 under the proposals.
And councils could be given powers to charge more for late-night licences. The Government says this would help pay for more policing.
The proposals also call for a ban on selling alcohol below cost price.
Mrs May said: “The benefits promised by the 24 hour drinking ‘café culture’ have failed to materialise, and in its place we have seen an increase in the number of alcohol-related incidents and drink-fuelled crime and disorder.”
“Too often on a Friday and Saturday night, the police and local A&E departments bear the brunt of some of the worst excesses of binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder”, she added in a Parliamentary statement.
The Home Secretary continued: “We are determined to change this, and will be proposing to introduce more flexibility into the current licensing regime to allow local authorities and the police to clamp down on alcohol-related crime and disorder hot spots within local night-time economies.”
Writing on The Daily Telegraph website, commentator Janet Daley criticised the mentality behind 24-hour drinking laws.
She said: “It was quite absurd to think that simply introducing a piece of legislation would bring about an instantaneous change in the historical British relationship with alcohol.
“The national prevalence of hard-drinking coupled with aggression and violence goes much further back than the introduction of cheap booze in supermarkets or the utterly irresponsible decision to allow 24 hour opening in pubs and clubs.”
Last week Labour grandee Roy Hatersley criticised 24-hour drinking laws saying they were a “terrible mistake”.
Lord Hattersley savaged the naivety behind the move, saying it was a “fashionable theory of the time, no doubt very popular at North London dinner parties”.
But he added: “For every family shopper who takes home a bottle of Beaujolais to enjoy with Sunday lunch, several teenagers prepare for a riotous night out by buying whatever is on ‘special offer’.”
In April the BBC’s John Humphrys and ex-Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair blasted 24-hour drinking.
Referring to the promised ‘café culture’ Sir Ian said: “The idea we were going to turn into some Italian piazza, sipping wine population, I do not think is going to happen.”
Mr Humphrys said his home city of Cardiff was blighted by alcohol-fuelled violence.
The BBC presenter said that the police officers he spoke to all blamed both 24-hour drinking and new planning laws which have allowed many “vertical drinking establishments” to be built.
He said: “There is nowhere to sit and chat over a quiet pint, nowhere even to rest your glass. You stand and drink.”
Mr Humphrys added: “Everyone I spoke to told me the same thing: ‘We’re here to get drunk.'”