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Stotty on Sunday: CHANGE BOOZING..NOT HOURS.

Byline: Richard Stott

THE Government's arguments for all-hours boozing, never strong, look increasingly ridiculous. Nobody believes that by easing the licensing laws we will all suddenly become a nation of cafe society conversationalists like the French.

There is a difference between drinking and boozing, and our problem is boozing. By encouraging pubs and clubs to stay open longer all that will happen is the drunks will spill out on to the streets later when there is even less transport to get the legless home.

Almost 50 per cent of violent crime is fuelled by alcohol and two-thirds of weekend A&E hospital cases are drink-related. We have to face up to the unpalatable fact that this country has a severe alcohol problem, among the young especially, encouraged by the drinks trade, cut-price super- markets and local authorities desperate to license pubs and clubs to stimulate business in town centres.

The new regulations will, at best, make no difference and are quite likely to make no-go town centres worse. Meanwhile the Government continues to drink at the wrong bar even though the round has suddenly shrunk - neither the Tories nor the Lib Dems took issue with the legislation when it went through the Commons.

Cheap drink, lad culture, non-stop advertising, peer pressure and an over-arching booze lifestyle have given us a critical social problem unmatched in few other countries. Its tentacles reach from domestic violence and murder to the misery served up by boozy yobs for those unfortunate enough to be caught in town centres late at night.

The Government will backtrack over this, probably by testing it first in selected areas. But what we really need is a profound look at our boozing culture.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 14, 2005
Words:284
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