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are the 'lax licensing laws' really to blame?

29 July 2010

The Home Secretary Theresa May has unveiled plans to overhaul licensing laws and tackle violent disorder ahead of a key speech on anti-social behaviour yesterday.

Since the formation of the coalition government, the Home Office have consistently blamed lax licensing laws and in particular 24-hour drinking for Britain’s alcohol-related problems and more specifically its binge drinking culture.

However, when the Department for Culture Media and Sports last counted, there were 171,800 premises licensed to sell alcohol in England and Wales. Roughly, just 4% of these premises were licensed to sell alcohol 24 hours a day and of that 4% only 12% were pubs, bars and nightclubs. Further, in practice, very few of these actually open beyond 3am as the benefits of opening any later do not outweigh the overhead costs.

Is 24 hours licensing really to blame, when the reality is that 24 hour drinking has been nothing but a fiction since the introduction of the Licensing Act in 2005? Or is the Home Office distorting reality to make a demand by the public for more control over licensing decisions?

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