Licensing Laws come under fire at international conference

Issue date: 13 October 2005

Licensing laws come under fire at international conference

Government proposals to extend bar and club opening hours in England and Wales on 24 November will be criticised and debated in detail at a major international conference at the Watershed in Bristol on Friday 11 November 2005. The conference – ‘Alcohol Problems: Prevention and Treatment’ has been organised by the Alcohol and Health Research Trust at the University of the West of England and The Addictions Forum.

National and international experts will meet to discuss the prevention and treatment of alcohol problems. The meeting will be opened by Dr Isadore Obot of the Word Health Organization headquarters in Geneva (WHO). Dr Obot is expected to emphasise that alcohol problems harm many millions of people and that national governments should strive to reduce these problems to protect the health and safety of their citizens.

The centre piece of the morning session will be a debate about the plans to liberalise liquor licensing in late November. This debate will involve Philip Lay Retail Director of S.A. Brain & Company, the Cardiff Brewery, Roy Light, Professor of Law at the University of the West of England and Jackie Roberts, Assistant Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police. In the afternoon an overview will be provided of the effectiveness and cost of alternative treatments for alcohol dependence shown by the large scale UK Alcohol Treatment Trial.

The meeting will conclude with an overview of harm minimisation approaches provide by Professor Eric Single (Canada), an acknowledged authority on this subject. One of the other speakers at this meeting will be Martin Plant, Professor of Addiction Studies in the University of the West of England. He will be reviewing trends in binge drinking and the experience of other countries in which licensing laws have been relaxed. Professor Plant has expressed his concerns about the proposed changes in licensing laws in these words:

“The UK has a huge and increasing problem with binge drinking. This is ruining lives and has turned our town and city centres into ‘no- go areas’ after dark. Binge drinking and public disorder are at epidemic levels, bingeing amongst teenage girls has now even overtaken that among boys. Deaths from alcohol-related liver disease are rocketing. This used to be a condition in middle aged and elderly people, but now even teenagers are succumbing to it. Alcohol-related psychiatric hospital admissions in teenage girls have risen significantly and alcohol related deaths have increased by 20% in the past five years. Government plans to extend bar opening hours ignore the fact that previous liberalisations have increased problems. Our own history shows that, as does recent experience from Iceland, Ireland, Australia, Canada and Scandinavia.”

The proposed liberalisation is opposed by nearly 70% of the public, as well as by judges, magistrates the police, social scientists and medical authorities. In spite of this, extended bar licenses are being granted all over England and Wales, even though local residents have made their fears and objections very clear. This is not local democracy and it is not in the public interest. It is not too late for the Government to abandon this ill-conceived plan. This would save lives and make the streets much safer than they will be if this change takes effect.”

To register Please contact Jan Green on 0117 328 8800 or e-mail


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