'Labour is giving Britain a beer belly'

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Government, Uk mps 2005-, Tobias ellwood, Gerry sutcliffe

More evidence that the Tories would alter the Licensing Act emerged yesterday, as a senior party figure claimed binge-drinking was "becoming the...

More evidence that the Tories would alter the Licensing Act emerged yesterday, as a senior party figure claimed binge-drinking was "becoming the norm" under Labour.

During a debate in Parliament, shadow licensing minister Tobias Ellwood attacked the current regime, pointing to recent figures showing that teenage lawlessness has risen by 300 per cent since 1997 and one in three girls now admit to binge-drinking.

"All this proves that, under this government, binge-drinking is slowly becoming the norm," he added.

"Labour is giving Britain a beer belly and a worrying taste for alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour."

Last week Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said there was a "strong case" to end "Labour's 24-hour drinking regime".

But in response yesterday licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe defended the Act, saying he did not recognise the picture painted by Ellwood.

"The Licensing Act gives people the opportunity to have a drink at the time they choose, with local government and the police being able to make sure that is properly monitored," he said.

"Also, most of the licensee trade supported the principles of the Act."

Earlier Sutcliffe was asked whether he was planning to review the licensing process to cut the amount of red tape for licensees.

He replied: "We are always looking at what we can do to reduce bureaucracy, and the DCMS has a proud record of reducing it across the piece." But he admitted there was "an issue" for pubs.

He then pointed out that the government's Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme will also be applied to tied pubs, whereby 75 per cent of a small business loan will be met by the government and the rest by a bank.

Related topics: Beer

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