Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Ninth Report


Memorandum by the Lord's Day Observance Society (LDOS)

The Lord's Day Observance Society (LDOS) is grateful to the Government for this opportunity to respond formally to the provisions of the above named consultation paper.

General Observations

This consultation document comes hard on the heels of another last year which sought proposed changes to the Sunday Observance laws, including the relaxation of restrictions on music and dancing and, thereby, to associated liquor licensing regulations. While the earlier measures, published in April 1999, affected clubs and discotheques, it is recognised that this latest consultation focuses largely on restaurants. Even so, the current proposals appear to amount to a "stage two" of those put forward last year. Further, the combination of these two consultation papers appear to reflect broader Government policy which seems to be pursuing a policy of greater liberalisation of the liquor licensing laws generally, and specifically as they affect Sunday.

It might initially be considered that measures applying to restaurants would have a less deleterious affect on the nation's youth culture than would those affecting clubs and discotheques. It is, however, clear that a late-evening culture of frequenting curry houses, pasta and pizza restaurants etc., among the young, does exist. The relaxation of the laws as proposed, we believe, will simply provide still further opportunities for the concentrated consumption of alcohol, especially by the young people upon leaving other licensed premises, especially on Sunday evenings. Residents in the vicinity of such establishments will undoubtedly be subjected to further incidents of late-night noise and disturbance. Once again, for the benefit of a few, it seems the majority must suffer.

The Society views the suggested proposals as the result of consistent leisure industry pressure for the complete eradication of all trading restrictions with the sole aim of enhancing profits. Like most things in life, however, one individual's personal freedom is another's bondage. Whilst the changes may indeed be to the advantage of the licensing trade and leisure industry we have no doubt that the rights of local residents and others for a quiet life, free from alcohol-induced social difficulties and its associated problems, will be further infringed.

Specific Objections

The Society summarises its comments as follows (according to the order of the consultative paper's three summarised proposals):

1. the removal of the two-stage procedure to apply to sell alcohol with meals after normal licensing hours.

The Society is concerned at any relaxation of the licensing laws which will provide an even wider range of establishments to take advantage of increasing lax restrictions on the sale of alcohol. That the wider availability of alcohol, especially for young people, can only worsen the number of alcohol-induced incidents of crime and violence, is, we believe, axiomatic. Any easing of the current restrictions would, in the Society's view, only exacerbate an already, widely recognised, social problem.

2. the removal of the need for entertainment in conjunction with extended hours drinking.

The Society is clear that the provision of entertainment in restaurants currently provides a diversion from concentrated alcoholic consumption. Its absence, therefore, in many cases will mean more concentrated alcoholic consumption, further contributing to the problems noted above.

3. Specific approval for extended hours order is still required.

The Society makes no comment on this provision.

Conclusion

It perhaps goes without saying that that the Society's major concern is for the sanctity of Sunday as a special day of the week. (NB. This concern for Sunday as a special day has, interestingly, recently been given a boost by leaders of other faith communities in Britain.) The principle of Sunday as a special day has, of course, always been the Society's raison d'être. Our comments here, however, though relating more specifically to Sunday, remain pertinent to the health of the nation for the whole of the week.

The proposals are clearly a further rebuff to the Christian principle of the Fourth Commandment (i.e. the keeping of the Sabbath Day). All Ten Commandments were given, we believe, for the well being of all persons in all societies everywhere, whether or not they identify with the Judeao-Christian heritage and tradition or not. Britain, however, has long identified with this principle. The LDOS asserts that we, as a nation, are disregarding this heritage and paying the social cost.

Whilst it is fully recognised that the scope of the present consultative document is much narrower than that previously published (i.e. in April), the Society would extend its previous arguments against any further relaxation of the liquor licensing laws in Britain to the current proposals. The LDOS would therefore continue to urge the Government to reject the current proposed legislative changes and determine that they are wholly incompatible with the wider interests of communities throughout the country. It would be inconsistent of the LDOS to assert otherwise given the illogicality of the pursuit of such liberalisation in the face of a wealth of evidence revealing a disintegrating social fabric and a youth culture already riven by alcohol-related problems. The Society fails to understand the logic of how such legislative proposals can but exacerbate the present predicament.

John Roberts, General Secretary

18 January 2000


 
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