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Last Updated: Friday, 14 January, 2005, 13:14 GMT
Dobson attacks 24-hour drinking
Frank Dobson
Mr Dobson suggested the move was influenced by the alcohol industry
Former health secretary Frank Dobson has criticised plans to allow 24-hour pub opening and suggested the alcohol industry had influenced the move.

Mr Dobson said drinkers should pay for any extra policing required after the change, rather than council tax payers.

And he claimed that "certain civil servants" who prepared the plans had been "captured by the booze industry".

But Licensing Minister Richard Caborn said the changes would put an end to binge drinkers taking over the streets.

Mr Dobson said he wanted "a licensing fee system which means that all the local councils' costs in running the new system are met by the fees paid by the booze industry and not a burden on the local council taxpayers".

We are now going to return our streets back to the citizens and we are going to deal with the thugs
Richard Caborn
Licensing Minister

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he added: "Similarly, if it is going to impose extra costs on police services then the boozers should pay."

Downing Street has said "discussions are continuing" about a possible levy on the drinks industry to pay for the cost of extra policing caused by longer opening hours.

On Friday the Prime Minister's spokesman said Home Secretary Charles Clarke was "urgently addressing the issue" and was in talks with the police and the department of culture about the issue of police resources.

Expressing concern about the influence of the alcohol industry, Mr Dobson also cited an article in the Publican newspaper in which a civil servant reportedly warned industry insiders to "step up their efforts" in favour of the change to combat criticisms.

'Urban savages'

It is hoped that allowing pubs and clubs to stay open longer will see phased closing times and end the current situation where drinkers spill on to the streets all at once.

However, 650-strong pub chain JD Wetherspoon said there were strong commercial reasons not to stay open around the clock.

"This has nothing to do with morals - we just don't believe there will be enough demand from our customers," said a spokesman.

Concerns about the plans have been expressed by senior policemen, medical experts and a judge who claimed easy access to drink was breeding "urban savages".

But Mr Caborn rejected these suggestions, saying: "The law is not working now. That is why we have got the drunkenness."

He said the changes would lead to "flexible opening hours" which would prevent "flashpoints at 11pm, and 2am or 3am".

Tory criticism

"We are now going to return our streets back to the citizens and we are going to deal with the thugs," he added.

The licensing minister also said "irresponsible" publicans who served under-age drinkers or drunken people would have their licences taken away.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said proposals to impose levies on pubs and bars to pay for extra policing were a sign of "panic".

"If the government lets 24-hour licensing go ahead, no amount of patchwork responses, like this proposal to charge publicans, will stop our town centres becoming no-go areas for decent people," he added.




SEE ALSO:
NHS fear over 24-hour drink plans
03 Jan 05 |  Politics
Tories opposing 24-hour drinking
12 Jan 05 |  Politics


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