Beginning at midnight tonight, over 60,000 establishments (including supermarkets, petrol stations, pubs and clubs) will be extending the hours during which they may sell alcohol. Over 1000 will receive 24-hour licenses to serve alcohol.
A quote from Licensing Minister James Purnell:
"It is absolutely clear that the current system has not worked," said the minister.
"Let's not penalise the majority of responsible drinkers because of the crimes of a minority.
"There should be a very clear principle here - that if people are not causing harm to others, government should get out of their personal lives."
I'm curious to see what effects, aside from the expected increase in alcohol-related disorderly behavior, the change in the laws will actually have. I wonder how much the old laws helped to create the binge-drinking problem. After all, when a pub shuts at 11 PM, the temptation to gulp down more than one pint at 10:45 is fairly strong. A great deal of heated argument about the sources of the binge-drinking problem has been going on for the past month or so, with everything from broken families and poor job prospects for graduates to the astronomical cost of house prices being blamed for the tendencies of British adults and teenagers to turn to drink for comfort. But I can't help thinking that all of those factors point towards one underlying attitude: that to have a desire to drink alcohol is to need an escape from reality. That's what needs to be changed. I think increasing freedom of choice helps to create a reality from which fewer people feel, subconsciously, a need to escape.