David Blackburn

Drink isn’t the curse of the working classes, but its easy availability is

Drink isn’t the curse of the working classes, but its easy availability is
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It must be stated from the outset - most drinkers are responsible and drink only on special occasions, with other people or by themselves. However, binge drinkers, or that caste of drinker whose evening is neatly rounded-off with a stomach pump, are a minority, albeit a growing one. Relaxed licensing laws and the government’s refusal to strong-arm the drinks industry have led to roving bands of Sally Bercows traversing town centres, and who end the night by falling out of their dresses and into a taxi, or onto a pavement.

Readily available alcohol has over-stretched the NHS’ dwindling A&E resources and the police’s time – Alice Thompson discloses that alcohol related disorders and injuries have increased by 69 percent since the introduction of new licensing laws. Disorder and anti-social behaviour (especially among underage drinkers) are where the politics of this issue is being fought. Chris Grayling intends to tackle these problems through changing behaviour by manipulating the tax system – a tactic that jars but to which there is no credible alternative. Tax on super-strength beers, ciders and alco-pops would be dramatically increased: forcing drinks companies to manufacture weaker products. And supermarkets would not be allowed to sell alcohol below cost-price – a policy rejected explicitly by the government in its guidelines. Grayling will empower councils so that they can shut down ‘trouble’ premises without referring to central government. Grayling surmises, correctly, that restricting availability will pay dividends. If he is proved right, will liberal licensing hours be curbed? Should they be anyway? CoffeeHousers, your thoughts please…