UK Licensing Laws ‘Should Follow Australia’

UK Licensing Laws ‘Should Follow Australia’

Over ten years ago the Labour government of the time introduced a major shake up of alcohol licensing laws, bringing 24-hour drinking to the UK. The changes, which came into force in 2005, were met with a mixed response at the time and continue to divide opinion.

But now a new study, which compares the licensing laws of the UK with Australia and the impact these have on our health and behaviour, suggests that we should return to shorter opening hours for pubs, bars, clubs and off licenses.

One of the reasons why this particular study is so interesting is because the UK and Australia have similar drinking cultures. This is the first research of its kind to compare alcohol availability policies in the two nations, and was conducted by the UK’s Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) and Australia’s Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

Researchers examined 14 alcohol control policies and rated each for their effectiveness. Australia’s ‘Last Drinks’ policy was deemed the most effective. Under this policy, venues have to restrict sales of alcohol on their premises after a certain time of night.

The report found that restricting opening hours could have a significant positive impact on A&E departments and hospitals.

Senior research and policy officer at IAS Jon Foster commented: “Even modest reductions in bar opening times would take the pressure off hard-pressed A&E departments, who would undoubtedly welcome a 25 per cent reduction in alcohol-related admissions, as happened in Australia.”

Among the recommendations made in the IAS and FARE report are to prioritise minimising the impact on public health and/or harm caused by alcohol when setting objectives in alcohol legislation, and to improve community involvement in the licensing system.

Earlier in May, the IAS highlighted figures published by NHS Digital in its Statistics on Alcohol England 2017 report, which showed that alcohol-related admissions to hospitals in England climbed in 2015/16, compared to the previous year.

1.1 million alcohol-related admissions were recorded in 2015/16, which is a four per cent increase on 2014/15, and a massive 78 per cent climb on the number reported in 2005/6.

Of course, if you run a bar, pub or club, you are operating well within the law by opening into the early hours of the morning and serving alcohol at this time, but it’s important you understand the responsibilities that come with being a personal license holder.

It never hurts to run licensing training courses with your staff to ensure that they are all clear on the law and what you, as a business, should and should not be doing.

While there is no indication that UK licensing laws are set to change in the immediate future, there could well be a review of the current legislation, as the IAS is not the only organisation to recommend changes.

Earlier this year a cross-party committee of Lords described the Licensing Act (2003) as “fundamentally flawed” in an inquiry into the legislation, and recommended that it be reviewed and overhauled.