13 October 2002
Methodist Church calls for licencing reforms to tackle alcohol culture
The Methodist Church Secretary for Parliamentary and Political Affairs, Ms Rachel Lampard, has made the following statement in response to the Queen's Speech today:
"Through the measures proposed in today's Queen's Speech, the Government argues that relaxing opening hours for pubs and clubs will reduce the amount of anti-social behaviour associated with closing time drinking. This may be true in some areas, but changing opening hours alone will do little to change an alcohol culture that is in itself damaging in all sorts of ways.
"More welcome is the promise to introduce measures to reduce anti-social behaviour in pubs, which we look forward to examining in detail. It is to be hoped that these will prompt a wide debate about how to challenge a culture where it is all too commonplace for people to go out binge drinking - especially at the weekend where the goal becomes the number of pints or glasses consumed to a deadline. We ought to ask why it seems necessary for getting drunk to be the focus of social activity, rather than alcohol being an accompaniment to meeting friends.
"Methodists have been called to take seriously the claims of abstinence or responsible drinking. Reforms that tackle the anti-social drinking culture in this country should help to promote a more responsible consumption of alcohol. We would have fewer reservations about a relaxation of pub licencing hours if this went hand in hand with moves towards a more European cafŽ culture, for example.
"The place of pubs in the community is also important. It is vital that the concerns of local residents are borne in mind. It will be interesting to see how the responsibility for granting licences is to be transferred to elected members of local authorities who, it is hoped, will be sensitive to the requirements of their local constituents."
Earlier the Queen's Speech had announced that pubs could be allowed to open 24-hours a day under long-awaited plans to relax the UK's licensing laws. Fixed opening hours are set to be scrapped as the UK moves to a more European attitude to drinking alcohol in public.
Relaxation of the current laws, promised in Labour's election manifesto, will go hand-in-hand with new laws to combat disorder around pubs and bars. In her speech, the Queen said: "My government will bring forward legislation to streamline the licensing system for premises selling alcohol. This will abolish fixed opening hours and introduce a range of conditions to reduce anti-social behaviour."