Police chief calls for late licence tax as youngsters are 'drinking themselves into oblivion'
By JAMES SLACK - More by this author »
Last updated at 17:28pm on 26th November 2007 Comments (5)
Sir Norman Bettison is calling for a late licence tax
A chief constable last night warned large numbers of young people are 'drinking themselves into oblivion' in the aftermath of Labour's controversial licensing reforms.
Sir Norman Bettison called for 'polluting' pubs and shops which stay open late into the night to pay extra charges.
He said the cash should then be ploughed into extra policing and 'detox' centres for youngsters causing untold damage by bingeing on a 'cocktail' of cheap alcohol.
Sir Norman also called for an end to cheap alcohol promotions, such as two-for-one offers, which have been widely blamed for the drunken mayhem witnessed in many town centres.
The West Yorkshire Chief Constable's alarming remarks will be read with interest by Downing Street, which has ordered a review of 24-hour opening.
Reports by the Home Office and Department for Culture are due to be published next year on the impact of the move - which had led to 5,000 pubs, bars and shops opening round-the-clock.
Gordon Brown is expected to respond by banning shops selling alcohol after 11pm.
But experts have warned this would not stop young people simply switching to late-opening pubs.
Sir Norman's suggestion of charging pubs and clubs who stay open late extra money presents a further option for Number 10 to consider - even if it would be fiercely resisted by the brewing industry.
The chief constable - who recently spent a night on the streets of Leeds to view the alcohol-fuelled mayhem first hand - says cheap booze offers and lengthy opening hours are contributing to excessive drinking.
He said: "Some young people are drinking themselves into oblivion, often using a cocktail of drink and drugs to get themselves into an almost unconscious state.
"What is happening raises a host of health, societal and policing issues."
He added: "No irresponsible promotions please, no two-for-the-price-of-one."
Scroll down for more...
Scenes like this helped form Sir Bettison's view that 'young people are drinking themselves into oblivion'
He will today tell a safe drinking conference in Leeds that late-opening licensed premises might contribute towards safe detox facilities for those who have had too much.
"The 'polluters' as in other aspects of society should pay for the consequences of their business," said Sir Norman.
Ministers forced through 24-hour opening in November 2005, despite a barrage of protests from police, medics, the judiciary and the Daily Mail.
It has led to a surge in call-outs of ambulance staff, a spike in violent attacks in the early hours of the morning and warnings that increasing numbers of young people are being admitted to hospital with liver complaints.
Police say their resources are being badly stretched by the need to have officers on the beat throughout the night, leaving fewer on patrol during daylight hours.
Alan Gordon, vice chairman of the Police Federation, said: "Our role has been made more difficult as a consequence of an increase in alcohol-related incidents and we would welcome and support a review of 24-hour licensing."
Meanwhile, the number of premises staying open round-the-clock has leapt by 70 per cent, from 3,000 to 5,100 in a single year.
Last night, the British Beer and Pub Association sought to play down the impact of the changes.
The organisation published a YouGov survey saying 78 per cent of people drink the same amount of alcohol now as they did two years ago.
The BBPA said 51 per cent of the 1,840 respondents were opposed to the 10 per cent hike in alcohol tax backed by the newly formed Alcohol Health Alliance coalition.