Bishops fear binge drinking

02 November 2006

GOVERNMENT plans to relax licensing laws this year which pave the way for 24-hour drinking will "only result in people drinking more and for longer", said a Church of England spokesman this week.

"Often it is the Church that finds itself working with the victims of alcohol abuse and their families. We are concerned that these reforms will do nothing to improve the situation."

Despite protests, the Government is to go ahead with proposals to allow 24-hour opening at licenced premises. Last weekend, it announced plans to tackle binge and under-age drinking to accompany the new licensing structure.

These include the introduction of "alcohol disorder zones". This means that after an eight-week warning period, if the problem of anti-social drinking has not been tackled at a pub or bar, the landlord would be liable to contribute towards policing and other costs of dealing with alcohol-fuelled disorder.

This idea has been praised by the Bishop of Southwell, the Rt Revd George Cassidy. Speaking in the House of Lords in December, he commended the "polluter-pays" principle to binge drinking.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, has also spoken out in the House of Lords on alcohol abuse, and has called for a more comprehensive approach nationwide, as distinct from the current initiatives, which are "often unevenly located".

Commending a report this week by the Church of Ireland, Alcohol in the Life of Young People, the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Robin Eames, described alcohol misuse as a "social evil". Dr Eames also said that the report, which stated that alcohol consumption per capita in Ireland was the highest in the European Union, was a serious and balanced study.

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