UK's "deep-seated" drink problems

Andrew Lansley claims legislation is not the answer to the UK's drink problem
Andrew Lansley claims legislation is not the answer to the UK's drink problem

The Conservatives have called on the government not to impose further legislation to tackle Britain's drinking culture.

Alcohol consumption in the UK is set to be a major political issue in 2008, with the state of the nation's health seen as a key vote-winner.

The government's introduction of the 24-hour licensing rules last year has met with many critics and Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley insists legislation is not the way forward.

Mr Lansley said measures such as increased taxation on alcohol negated the fundamental need to underline individual responsibility and claimed no discernable benefits had been derived from the controversial 24-hour drinking laws.

"It does I think point to the fact that we have deep-seated problems here, deep-seated problems about excessive drinking on the part of a minority of people and it is not in my way of thinking that we should penalise the majority who drink sensibly simply because of the excesses of the minority," he told BBC Radio 4.

"All of us need to start to think about how in this country we can achieve positive changes in behaviour without having to have an endless succession of laws by government, whether it is alcohol disorder zones or whatever it may be, or what will come after it which will be hefty increases in taxation on alcohol."

He concluded that the government should instead encourage people to "accept a much greater sense of responsibility for what we do".

Skills secretary John Denham told the same station that there was little evidence to suggest the laws had exacerbated Britain's alcohol culture.

He admitted there was a "major problem" of binge drinking, but stressed that 24-hour licensing applied to only a "small percentage" of pubs and other outlets.

"In my view it is not the central issue," Mr Denham said of the Licensing Act.

"Binge drinking existed before the changes to the licensing legislation. We have got that under review but there is not clear evidence that the change in licensing law actually further increased the problems of binge drinking."

He added: "We have an issue about the supply of alcohol; we need to use the new powers we've got to crack down on the places that are selling particularly to underage drinkers; there are issues that are also to be looked at in the review of the supply of alcohol through supermarkets and the very heavy discount promotions that is in your face every time you go into one."


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