Memorandum by the Lord's Day Observance
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.
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.
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
The Society makes no comment on this provision.
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