The real cost of Britain's binge drinking culture are becoming ever clearer. The alcohol fuelled violent crime and loutish behaviour which blight many town centres. The increasing pressures on hospital A&E departments dealing with those injured or seriously intoxicated by excessive drinking. The rising death rates where alcohol was a contributory factor.
But there are other harms too. At last week's Conservative Women's Organisation (CWO) mini-conference in Grantham, a highly informed panel featuring representatives from Nottinghamshire Police, Lincolnshire NHS and the YWCA underlined other significant hidden harms. Young women at greater risk of falling victim to sexual assault when drunk, increased risks of domestic violence in the home environment, links to underlying mental health issues, inter-generational drug dependency and wider symptoms of social deprivation.
It was a genuine pleasure to take part in the discussions and hear more about some of the excellent community based work that is taking place. What it underlined to me was the need for a comprehensive approach to dealing with the binge boozing culture. That's why Conservative plans for targeted taxes on those products most closely linked to binge drinking, a ban on alcohol being sold below cost and giving communities much greater say over licences in their area including the right to impose a ‘late night levy' on bars and off-licences staying open late into the night are really needed.
The Government's latest retreat on 24 hour drinking by saying that they would ban alcohol licences between 3-6am underlines that Labour are part of the problem not the solution. Simply focussing on a handful of all night bars won't deal with the serious underlying societal problems linked to alcohol. Half measures have been the hallmark of this Government. We can't go on like this when the costs to society in dealing with excessive alcohol consumption continue to grow.