Prof slams plans to curb binging as ‘pitifully weak’

Recent attempts by political parties to crack down on binge drinking don’t go “remotely far enough”, a university professor says.

Prof Roger Williams criticises measures by Labour to curb binge drinking as “meaningless dodges” and Tory plans as simply “toothless”.

Earlier this week both parties unveiled their plans to tackle the binge-drinking problem.

Labour want to ban “irresponsible” drinking promotions and the Conservatives set out plans to place higher taxes on ‘problem’ drinks such as alcopops.

But Prof Williams says these measures are not strong enough.

He commented: “Both the major political parties are aware of the crisis in our society, and both are trying to make political capital this week by claiming to have the policies that will end this nightmare.

“But the truth is their proposed solutions are pitifully weak.”

He said: “If we are really to challenge the binge-drinking culture, we have to take much stronger action.

“Personally, I would like to see an end to 24-hour opening.

“There should also, I believe, be greater restrictions on advertising and sponsorship by drinks companies.

“Above all, we have to make alcohol more expensive.”

Criticising the all-day drinking law, Prof Willams said: “The idea behind the introduction of 24-hour pub opening, said ministers, was to create a more relaxed, continental-style ‘cafe culture’ in Britain.

“But this was always Utopian nonsense. We have neither the climate nor the tradition for such a cafe culture.”

He went on: “The results of 24-hour opening can be seen all around us: in the squalor and violence on the streets every weekend; in the soaring number of admissions to Accident and Emergency units; in the mass closure of smaller, more responsible pubs that can no longer compete with the huge chains that earn their profits from non-stop binge drinking on an industrial scale.”

The 24-hour drinking law has come under sustained criticism since it was brought in under the 2003 Licensing Act.

Last year at the Labour party conference Gordon Brown admitted that the law is “not working”.

In 2008 police officers said the all-day drinking law had made many market towns like the “Wild West”.

The Police Federation of England and Wales told MPs that police resources were being diverted away from emergency calls because they were needed to deal with late-night disorder.

Simon Reed, Vice Chairman of the Federation, speaking to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, said: “At times, policing is being really stretched, often in the smaller towns more than in the bigger cities.

“My impression of many market towns is they are really like the Wild West on occasion because they are really stripped of resources.”

Two years ago Sydney scrapped its 24-hour drinking laws as the city attempted to curb alcohol-fuelled violence.

Authorities in the city said binge drinking had led to attacks on residents and police officers, including ‘glassings’ where men and women were hit in the face with beer glasses.

Nathan Rees, then Premier of New South Wales, said people in the region had “had enough of it”.

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