Alcohol Licensing,Price and Availability

Lord Soley

We were continuing the debate on the Police Bill yesterday and had an important group of amendments on availability and effects of alcohol. It is a difficult policy area. Alcohol is an socially accepted but powerful drug regularly used by most people in our society. We are rightly worried about the dramatically increased number of people suffering from alcohol related diseases especially young people.

The two ammendments that I supported were proposed by Baroness Finlay. They would both be contentious but I think popular and involve restrictions and tests on certain individuals and greater control of licensing in certain areas.

The debate inevitably referred to past behaviour – mine included!!   (I’m afraid you have to scroll two thirds of the way down the Hansard page to reach the debate which started at 4pm)

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9 comments for “Alcohol Licensing,Price and Availability

  1. Twm O'r Nant
    10/06/2011 at 6:23 pm

    “regularly used by most people”?

    I wonder. There are a great many good people who never touch the stuff,either because they can’t afford it, or because they have religious principles.

  2. Gareth Howell
    10/06/2011 at 7:01 pm

    In the UK, average consumption is now a staggering 9.7 litres of neat ethanol for every man aged 45 to 64.
    Presumably per year and not per decade

    Addiction of any sort is most unpleasant. An inability, by the individual, to understand the causes of the addiction, very difficult to help with, whether of cigarettes, alcohol or even coffee. Far more women are now addicted to cigarettes as some kind of gesture of defiance, possibly acquired in school years.

    Religious and church groups can be very good at encouraging abstemiousness and teetotalism, but what amazes me is how, when you put yeast in to apple juice and leave it for a few months, what happens when you drink
    it. It has a valuable vitamin C content.
    I make 30 gallons for myself every year, and it does me good. The alcohol removes impurities, in time honoured fashion.

    Beer is nasty stuff because the bitterness of the hop disguises vast quantities of unfermented sugar, which accounts for the high calorific value of most beers at 500kcal per pint.

    It is not so much the alcoholic effect of beer but the effect of the sugar on the metabolism, which, as any stomatologist will tell you, starts in the mouth.

    Diabetes in older people is a very serious problem indeed, and that, in my view is rather more serious than the inebriation brought about by beer.

    The problem that the noble lords are/were referring to, in this debate, was surely the hugely increased consumption of SPIRITS
    and that is caused by the much greater disposable income, and much more time to enjoy that disposable income, than the babby boomers parents had in the 1950s.

    The big pub chain merchants have a lot to answer for, in their extremely aggressive
    campaigning for MORE consumption of alcohol.

    Parliament has a lot to answer for, for allowing those merchants to lobby successfully for the 24 hour drinking “philosophy” that allows them to make so much more profit from their assets.

    Until the 1980s short Sunday hours for pubs, shut at 2230, long golden hours, and other good features of the law were lost to abominable legalisation of very long hours indeed.

    Most of the pubs are managed now, and the small pub, like the small petrol station, and the small shop have been booted out of business, by undercutting and knocking every small business for six.

    Now that the internet market for retail food has opened up again, the big stores are saying how wonderful it IS to have local delivery,spirits and all.

    No. The successful lobbying of parliament, and parliament’s failure to keep those controls on licensing hours, has been the main cause of the descent in to the hell of spirit
    alcohol drinking.

    Now where is my pressure cooker? I am going to let off some steam.

  3. MilesJSD
    11/06/2011 at 2:55 am

    one used to be able to walk to the ‘local’ and get one’s own quart-jug filled with ale for a tenth of the price it now costs under “Value Added” ornate, throw-away, convenient-sized packagings;

    the tax is a “Profit-Added Tax”
    and should be so named,
    especially since it and similar “verbal whitewashing” is in large part causative of the new, difficult, and costly legislation the Parliaments are now having to face into.


  4. jake____
    11/06/2011 at 1:06 pm

    “Last year, alcohol misuse cost the NHS £2.7 billion”

    “alcohol was flagged against 18,403 crimes of violence against the person, 3,612 incidents of criminal damage and 2,136 theft and handling offences”

    The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971:
    “It shall be the duty of the Advisory Council to keep under review the situation in the United Kingdom with respect to drugs which are being or appear to them likely to be misused and of which the misuse is having or appears to them capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem, and to give to any one or more of the Ministers, where either the Council consider it expedient to do so or they are consulted by the Minister or Ministers in question, advice on measures (whether or not involving alteration of the law) which in the opinion of the Council ought to be taken for preventing the misuse of such drugs or dealing with social problems connected with their misuse, and in particular on measures which in the opinion of the Council ought to be taken”

    Remind me again why Alcohol is not under the MoDA? Am I the only one who can see the hypocrisy? It seems to fit the description of a drug that needs to be controlled better than almost any other drug. Maybe it is time to bring it under the MoDA so it can be properly ‘controlled’ via licencing, advertising and health controls. I wonder if Cannabis or Ecstasy causes that level of crime and violence if you take out the factor of their statuses as ‘illicit’ drugs. Maybe its time to regulate safer choices for people…

    The fact that Alcohol causes all these problems yet is “socially accepted” whereas other less harmful drugs, both to the user and to society, are not, is a disgrace.

    Regarding the bill, I think in some circumstances it can work and help prevent the most violent and abusive drinkers from causing as many problems, or at least swiftly punish them if they do cause problems. However, I fear that this is just another solution to a symptom, not addressing the root cause. Why is it that so many drink to such excess? Why is it that some become violent? It is because it is “socially accepted”, in the same way that Tobacco was. I’m sure poverty is also a contributing factor. We have to change the CULTURE to be able to reduce the problems. Now I’m not one for another assault on our civil liberties, but I think that pervasive and highly prevalent Alcohol advertising plays a part. It is associated with nearly every sport, every sector of work and society. Prices are skewed towards low cost to encourage excess drinking. I think to reduce the harms caused by Alcohol an impact assessment of stricter control methods would be required, review what other countries have done, and yes this would include a ban on advertising, minimum unit pricing and a ramped price in pubs/clubs where instead of buying e.g. a double to get a discount, it will cost proportionally more, to encourage slower drinking.

    I think it is time for an adult discussion of all drugs, how to control them and how best to minimise the harms. Currently, the only only one with any demonstrable success is Tobacco, done via sensible restrictions and regulation to change the culture which has lowered the usage rate and therefore harms. The social acceptance of some drugs over others is causing more harm than good as what is “socially accepted” is not based on the level of harm that the drug causes, and as a result, our whole drug policy is an ineffective joke.

  5. danfilson
    11/06/2011 at 5:58 pm

    There are civil servants who analyse whether extra tax on alcohol will pull in more tax than is lost by that foregone because people drink less. So the name of the game when it comes to taxing alcohol is not deterrence but determining – apologies to Colbert – how fast you can pull feathers from the duck with the least amount of squawking.

    Alcohol taken to excess leads to intoxication. The problems, quite apart from the ill-health consequences for the drinker, (out of doors) are public drunkenness and rowdiness, and (indoors) domestic violence and child neglect. But in terms of drunk driving we only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to driving under the influence. What is perhaps perplexing is how social interaction prevents people getting drunk in some contexts and encourages them to do so in others. Pubs and clubs are designed to make drinking in company easier; dinner parties, not that I get many invites, whilst encouraging getting merry, do not – generally – foster drunkenness. Should there be more research on social pressures on drinking to excess?

    I’m at at least as much concerned about the effects of body-building compounds. There are innumerable cases of sudden character changes attributable to (but often not attributed to) steroids or similar – often it is nightclub or pub bouncers who are the offenders.

    I’ve no idea of the ill-effects of combining drink and drugs or combining drink and steroids, but I doubt it improves matters.

    • Twm
      13/06/2011 at 12:10 pm

      least as much concerned about the effects of body-building compounds. There are innumerable cases of sudden character changes attributable to (but often not attributed to) steroids or similar –

      The causes being very different.
      1) Excess of testosterone in the body being the cause of violence in such people.

      2)Alcohol, the loss of reason thru damage to the brain.

      A comparison between the two must be a researched subject, and the excess testosterone may also be a loss of reason due to damage, temporary or permanent.

      The purveyors of such drugs/fitness drinks and so on, vehemently deny that their product is the cause, but “Fitness” is a big sporting sub culture.

  6. ladytizzy
    12/06/2011 at 11:00 pm

    Lord Soley: as you said in the debate, the problem is not with alcohol per se. Labour bravely experimented with 24hr licensing on the premise that availability was also not the problem. This, too, failed to stem the problem.

    What problem are you addressing?

  7. Gareth Howell
    13/06/2011 at 12:04 pm

    I’m glad To read Dan Filson’s remarks.

    Why is it that some become violent?

    Simply; the effect of spirits doing their immediate damage to the liver, the brain, the kidneys… Loss of reason is, of course, the effect on the brain, the cirrhosing effect.

    I think there may be an experiment to observe the damage, by using animal organs dipped for a whiles in neat alcohol.

    • danfilson
      13/06/2011 at 2:40 pm

      I think it is more complex than that. The long term damage may be to kidneys and liver, but the behavioural effects are located elsewhere. It’s the combination of the inhibition-releasing and the group-reinforcement that causes rowdiness; but the violence that alcohol triggers is, I suspect, attributable to inhibition-releasing coupled with a disturbed personality waiting to be triggered into violence.

      Excuse the hyphenation which is due to a regrettable infection.

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