United Kingdom: Labour was wrong to bring in 24 hour drinking, admits Andy Burnham
Mr. Burnham, who as culture secretary in the Gordon Brown’s Government in 2008 was in charge of the policy, admitted that it had been a ‘mistake’ in a BBC debate.
By Christopher Hope, Chief Political Correspondent
April 29, 2015
Labour was wrong to bring in 24 hour drinking, the party’s health spokesman Andy Burnham has said.
Mr. Burnham, who was culture secretary in the Gordon Brown’s Government in 2008 was in charge of the policy, admitted that it had been a “mistake” in a BBC debate.
Mr. Burnham made the comments in a debate about health on the BBC’s Daily Politics program, alongside other health spokesmen including the Tories’ Jeremy Hunt and the Liberal Democrats’ Norman Lamb, who both agreed with him.
Bars, clubs, pubs and supermarkets in England and Wales were allowed to apply for longer opening licenses after the introduction of 24 hour drinking in 2005 – following legislation passed in 2003.
However campaigners and critics have said that it costs the police millions of pounds to deal with drink-related crime each year.
Alcohol-related crimes cost hospitals more than £3 billion a year. Figures show that in 2009/10, more than one million people were treated by doctors for alcohol-related illnesses.
Andrew Percy, who was a Conservative member of the Commons health committee until the end of March, said: “It’s no good Labour realizing now what everybody told them at the time.
“By extending drinking to 24 hours, Labour put extra pressure on the police, councils and NHS staff in accident and emergency departments. As ever with Labour, it takes years for them to admit their mistakes.”
Two years ago Alastair Campbell, who was Tony Blair’s director of communications when the change was introduced, said licensing rules should be changed to “take in the impact on public health”.
Mr. Campbell, who has emerged as a campaigner for a minimum price for alcohol, said: “There are now twice as many places where you can buy alcohol than there were in the 1950s and 1960s.
“Some of that’s down to the 24-hour licensing: The licensing regulations don’t have to take in the impact on public health. They should.”
Lord Hattersley, a Labour peer, has described the introduction of a 24 hour drinking culture as a “terrible mistake”.
A Labour spokesman said: “The last Government acknowledged the impact of the rules.
“That’s why they were tightened before the last election to ensure councils had the power to take licenses away where needed.”
A source added: “Gordon Brown admitted the same before last election. We’ve said it many times before. We reviewed and toughened the licensing act before leaving Government.”
Mr. Burnham made the comments in a debate about health on the BBC’s Daily Politics programmed, alongside other health spokesmen including health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
During the televised debate Mr. Hunt and Mr. Burnham said that they “possibly” would consider banning advertising junk food after television’s 9pm watershed.
Ukip’s health spokesman Angus Dalgleish, who was also in the debate, was the only one to back a ban on smoking in public parks, similar to a prohibition in New York in America.
Mr. Dalgleish said he adopted the position to protect children’s health, but said “it does sound paradoxical.”
Mr. Hunt also admitted that the Coalition’s health reforms “wouldn’t have won an award for the most popular health policy in history”.
However, Mr. Hunt added that the Health and Social Care Act (2012), spearheaded by Mr. Hunt’s predecessor Andrew Lansley, had been guided by the “right principle”.
Mr. Hunt said: “Well the principle, I think, is the right principle. We can all learn lessons in terms of the way we got the message across.”
Mr. Burnham argued the reforms “pulled the rug from underneath the NHS just when it needed stability”, adding: “It also put market forces at the heart of the NHS.”