Methodist Church calls for licencing reforms to tackle alcohol culture

The Methodist Church Secretary for Parliamentary andPolitical Affairs, Ms Rachel Lampard, has made the followingstatement in response to the Queen's Speech today:

"Through the measures proposed in today's Queen's Speech, theGovernment argues that relaxing opening hours for pubs and clubswill reduce the amount of anti-social behaviour associated withclosing time drinking. This may be true in some areas, but changingopening hours alone will do little to change an alcohol culturethat is in itself damaging in all sorts of ways.

"More welcome is the promise to introduce measures to reduceanti-social behaviour in pubs, which we look forward to examiningin detail. It is to be hoped that these will prompt a wide debateabout how to challenge a culture where it is all too commonplacefor people to go out binge drinking - especially at the weekendwhere the goal becomes the number of pints or glasses consumed to adeadline. We ought to ask why it seems necessary for getting drunkto be the focus of social activity, rather than alcohol being anaccompaniment to meeting friends.

"Methodists have been called to take seriously the claims ofabstinence or responsible drinking. Reforms that tackle theanti-social drinking culture in this country should help to promotea more responsible consumption of alcohol. We would have fewerreservations about a relaxation of pub licencing hours if this wenthand in hand with moves towards a more European cafŽ culture, forexample.

"The place of pubs in the community is also important. It isvital that the concerns of local residents are borne in mind. Itwill be interesting to see how the responsibility for grantinglicences is to be transferred to elected members of localauthorities who, it is hoped, will be sensitive to the requirementsof their local constituents."

Earlier the Queen's Speech had announced that pubs could beallowed to open 24-hours a day under long-awaited plans to relaxthe UK's licensing laws. Fixed opening hours are set to be scrappedas the UK moves to a more European attitude to drinking alcohol inpublic.

Relaxation of the current laws, promised in Labour'selection manifesto, will go hand-in-hand with new laws to combatdisorder around pubs and bars. In her speech, the Queen said: "Mygovernment will bring forward legislation to streamline thelicensing system for premises selling alcohol. This will abolishfixed opening hours and introduce a range of conditions to reduceanti-social behaviour."

Read the Methodist fact sheet onalcohol