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EDITIONS
Newsnight Tuesday, 8 July, 2003, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Drinking hours


The Irish government is cutting back its drinking hours to combat binge drinking. Newsnight has heard new evidence suggesting their approach is right: that relaxing drinking hours makes the situation worse.

So why is the Government currently pushing through parliament a law to liberalise pub opening hours? We asked the minister responsible, Richard Caborn.

RICHARD CABORN MP (Minister for Sports and Tourism):
All the evidence is showing where we relaxed on Sunday hours, where they had the development in Scotland, and if you look at other countries that don't have the hours of closing at 10.30 or 11.00, you don't get the problems at the end of the evening with people being thrown out of pubs. All the evidence shows that the type of binge drinking at closing time would go. This isn't just about alcohol, it's about bringing six licensing authorities together and four clear principles of which one will be nuisance and we're putting into the act the ability of the police to close down establishments. We are also making sure of citizens who've been complaining to a bureaucracy where their voice hasn't been heard, it will be heard in terms of the licensing authority.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
What evidence is there, because in Ireland, the evidence on the question of licensing laws is the reverse?

CABORN:
In Ireland, they've moved the hours by an hour-and-a-half either way. If you look in other countries that don't have those type of closing hours, you don't get the activity around the pub at whatever the closing times are. That tends to bring down the nuisance of people coming out of public houses.

PAXMAN:
In Ireland there's been an 81% increase in drink-related misbehaviour since they liberalised the licensing laws.

CABORN:
They changed the licensing hours by an hour-and-a-half. They didn't give the freedom of opening and closing hours. That's all you did in Ireland, you transferred the problem by an hour-and-a-half. We have evidence to show where we have relaxed in England on Sundays, in Scotland when we allowed the opening hours to extend, there was a reduction in the problems related to nuisance through drink. Also you can cite many other countries that you don't get those problems on the Continent.

PAXMAN:
But we're not on the Continent. This is a north European and Anglo-Saxon problem.

CABORN:
France and Germany are north Europe. When they come over and go to a show at the Barbican and they can't get a drink after 11.00, they look at us bemused.

PAXMAN:
So we're doing it to placate French and German tourists?

CABORN:
Jeremy, when you're walking in Derbyshire and you can't get a drink at 4pm in the afternoon, because of the licensing laws, you get a little annoyed.

PAXMAN:
So we're doing it to placate French and German tourists and walkers in Derbyshire?

CABORN:
Plenty of other people who'd want of an evening to go and relax having a drink.

PAXMAN:
Does the Department of Health favour these changes to the licensing laws?

CABORN:
The answer is yes. Like every piece of legislation it goes round every department of state. They have signed that off and we are now working collectively with the Cabinet Office to deal with the minority of people who would abuse the ability to access to alcohol.

PAXMAN:
Richard Caborn, thank you.

Newsnight can be seen on BBC Two at 2230 BST 2130 GMT, or in Real video, either live or on demand, by clicking on the latest programme button.

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 ON THIS STORY
Liz MacKean
reports on drinking hours in the Republic of Ireland
See also:

27 May 03 | Europe

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