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Crackdown on boozers began way back in 1736.


THERE have been attempts to clamp down on binge drinking since the 18th century.

The Gin Act of 1736 placed a heavy duty on the spirit. In was seen as the first real bid by the Government to control the popularity of drinking spirits. The view was "great numbers were by its (gin) use rendered unfit for useful labour, debauched in morals and drawn into all manner of vice and wickedness".

Gin Lane, a contemporary engraving by caricaturist William Hogarth, show the terrible consequences of drinking in London's squalid streets and taverns.

But the act caused only street riots and a growth in illicit alcohol production. It was repealed in 1742.

By the 1800s restrictions on liquor and opening hours came thick and fast. Victorian governments called last orders on unregulated drinking and tried to create a stable and sober workforce for the industrial revolution.

The 1872 Licensing Act and 1879 Habitual Drunkards Act was aimed at sorting out both drinkers and the landlords.

By the 20th century cracking down on drinkers was still a priority. The Licensing Bill of 1908 attempted to cut the number of pub licences by one third. Riots broke out in the brewing trade.

But it was the wartime Defence of the Realm Act in 1914 that set the framework for licensing for most of the 20th century.

The government feared that war production was being hampered by drunkenness, particularly among female munitions workers. Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, observed that Britain was "fighting Germans, Austrians and Drink, and as far as I can see the greatest of these foes is Drink".

Its aim was to control civilian behaviour - the level of tax on alcohol was increased and pub opening hours limited.

Since the Second World War there has been little change to the licensing laws - possibly until now?


DRUNKS: Hogarth's notorious Gin Lane cartoon shocked the nation
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 11, 2005
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