Stewart Jackson MP has obtained figures which show a sharp increase in NHS admissions for drink related problems, which correlate well with the introduction of 24 hour drinking. Broadcast at 07:11 on Friday 6th August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Paul Stainton on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
PS: : Now the number of people getting ill or injured because of alcohol has gone up in Peterborough. Last year five thousand seven hundred patients were admitted to city hospitals, an increase of forty per cent on the figures for two thousand and five. The figures were obtained by MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson and relate to both long term illnesses and drunken incidents. Mr Jackson has linked the increase to the start of twenty four hour drinking and he’s with us this morning. Morning Stewart.
SJ: Good morning Paul.
PS: Is there a link? Can you link it ostensibly to twenty four hour drinking?
SJ: Well I think the figures speak for themselves, because if you actually look at the figures for two thousand and two three it was around three thousand, just over three thousand incidents. Obviously the Licensing Act 2003 came into force in two thousand and four, and it subsequently shot up, as it’s now at five thousand seven hundred. I do think you can. because the Government’s original intention was to create a cafe culture. Obviously it went the wrong way, and we’ve had lots more incidents at significant cost to the taxpayer in the health service,
PS; What sort of incidents are we talking about here?
SJ: Well obviously there’s been disquiet from a number of people over the years about the impact of the Licensing Act. We’re talking not just about people falling over in their own homes as a result of drinking too much, but we’re also talking about mainly incidents to do with the night time economy, so fighting, disorder, that kind of thing, as a result directly of people drinking too much alcohol. The Home Office said, in their recent paper, that almost a million violent crimes were alcohol related, and that the cost of alcohol related crime and disorder to the taxpayer was anything between eight and thirteen billion pounds, which is a huge impact.
PS: Yes. And the figures get even more shocking if you compare them further back, if you go back to two thousand and two.
PS: And what’s the way forward here? Obvioulsy the Coalition Government wants to rein in the twenty four hour drinking culture, but is that not going to have an impact on businesses?
SJ: Well I think it will have an impact on rogue traders and bad businesses who want to exploit underage drinkers, who want to serve people who are drunk, who don’t care if people go out and have a fight with each other, or the police. Yes, those sort of people are going to struggle, and quite rightly. But responsible licencees, people who take a pride in their professionalism, people who want to make an honest profit but not at the significant social cost, they’re going to do well. In terms of what the Government is proposing, we’re now going to be in a position where people will be able to assess the full impact on disorder and public health when deciding applications. There’s going to be a late night levy for instance, to help pay for policing. And they’re going to scrap the proximity rule for complaints over a licence. Because at the moment it’s very prescriptive as to who can comment on a licencing application. I think it’s something within a mile. And obviously bigger establishments, that’s going to have an impact over more than a mile. So if you’re looking at the wider range of proposals on the table I think they’re good news. But they are out to consultation. The licensing trade will have their say. But I think it’s the right direction, because it costs an enormous amount of money, alcohol, to the health service, the police, and other agencies.
PS: Are we not grown up enough in Peterborough to have twenty four hour drinking?
SJ: Well I think the vast majority of people are. And the vast majority of people behave themselves, and they’re friendly and amenable when they’re drunk, but there is a small group of people who want to punch someone, or who want to urinate in the street ..
PS: So the majority has to suffer Stewart. Yes?
SJ: Well the thing is it’s how you .. the root of the problem, how you deal with that. And the root of the problem is essentially licencees who are misbehaving, and who are putting profit before the public good. And I think if you deal with them, and you also give local communities a chance to comment properly on what’s good. No-one wants to put anyone out of business, but they don’t also want constant problems as a result of alcohol in their local neighbourhood. So I think it is a balance. But there is a consultation. There will be legislation being brought forward by the Government later in the year, and I think as a result of that we will get that balance right.
PS: Yes. People want to drink though. we can’t just blame licencees. And Christine Greer thinks you’re completely wrong, from charity Drinksense. She’s linked the rise to the recession.
SJ: Well I hardly think from two thousand and three to two thousand and nine that we’ve had a recession. In fact we have had an econoimic growth period in that time, and people have money in their pockets. It’s actually about proliferation of licensing .. of licensed facilities, not pubs necessarily, but other places where people can get drink from. I don’t think it’s anything to do, with all due respect to her, and I’ve got a lot of time for her, because she’s spoken out on a number of occasions very eloquently about the problems with problem drinking, but I disagree with that. I think it’s much more about a culture in this country where we do have a small minority of people, which is different if you go to somewhere like Germany, or France or Italy, where you don’t have that.
PS: Why? Why are we different? Why do we have these people that just want to get absolutely blind drunk? What’s wrong with our society?
SJ: That is a much bigger question Paul that we could spend hours discussing. I don’t know the answer.
PS: But there’s something intrinsically wrong, isn’t there, if we’re so different to people, if we can’t have a twenty four hour cafe culture like they do in France, in Spain, everywhere across Europe it seems, apart from here? There’s something intrinsically wrong with us.
SJ: Well it’s a balance between the impact of the family and the fact .. if you go to France you very rarely see teenagers, teenage boys or young men, fighting in the street, vomiting etcetera, as a result of alcohol. It’s family pressure. It’s also social responsibilty in those small villages and towns, because they know that if they get a reputation for selling alcohol to people who are going to do that, then they’re going to be put out of business. It’s that balance of carrot and stick, and social pressure, that I think does it. And perhaps we just don’t have that in this country. But you’re right, it is only a small minority of people, but they do spoil it for the rest of the public who are genuinely well behaved, and decent, when they’ve drunk alcohol. It is a question, as I say, of the Government getting the balance right. And I think the new proposals will do that.
PS: Stewart thank you. Stewart Jackson MP for Peterborough.