I freely confess this morning to being a dinosaur. A very angry and irritated dinosaur, mind you.

Yesterday morning my family awoke to discover that during the night a mindless drunken yob had assaulted my wife’s car causing considerable damage, rendering it undriveable. From the nature of the damage it is evident that he had to get onto the bonnet to cause some of the damage. The perils of having only on-street parking are obvious but unavoidable where I live. As a result of this assault our entire weekend plans have gone up in smoke. The details matter not, but we are not now doing the pleasurable thing we had in mind for the weekend but instead spent most of yesterday sorting out the mess.

Of course our problems are minuscule compared to those of the Jones family in Liverpool, but one can be forgiven for thinking that incidents such as these are all part of a piece. If I am thought to ignore them, I do not mean to do so but instead opt to concentrate on where we might make a start.

Labour’s twenty-four hour drinking ‘experiment’ (they are the scientists, we are the lab rats) is a bonkers idea. We are never going to have a Continental-style café-culture. Our weather is against it. The nature of the economics of High Street property are against it. The arrival on the market of the Café Nero/Starbucks etc. type cafés has not brought with it any apparently successful spread of Continental-style cafés. Our drinking culture is against it.

Instead we have witnessed the rise and rise of huge drinking emporia which exist solely to remain open as long as possible, to pour as much alcohol as possible into as many young people as possible in order to extract as much profit as possible. No attempt is made to ensure that hose who are drunk (and obviously drunk) are given no more, for the sanctions for so doing either do not exist, are not enforced or are inadequate. Control of licensing has been passed from a Judicial body (The Licensing Justices) to an administrative body (The Local Authority), a move that must have been dreamt up by a particularly half-witted Civil Servant and carried into execution by a more than usually bovine Minister. Any sense of a culture of supervision of Licences has disappeared in a puff of smoke.

I am afraid I now belong to the ‘Killjoy’ party. I do not give a monkeys for all the howls of protest there will be at my proposal as to how we can start (note: ‘start’ and not ‘finish’) rolling back the tide of alcohol and alcohol infused youth from our streets, but actually I do not care. I have had enough.

Licensing must forthwith be returned to Licensing Justices. They shall be supervised by the Resident Judge for the local Crown Court centre. They will have wide powers to remove licences not just from individuals who fail properly to control the amount of alcohol consumed on their premises but from the premises themselves, so that the brewers, pub chains etc. have a significant financial interest in ensuring that the law requiring proper control of drunkenness within licensed premises is observed. Such laws should be backed by offences for which non-custodial sentences are the exception rather than the norm for licensees and should be so crafted as to expose the executives and managers of pub owning companies to the possibility of going to jail if they fail to exercise proper supervision over their managers. This must be reinforced by a willingness to lock up people found drunk in the street and to have them convicted of crime for being so found instead of just being tipped out in the morning when they are sober.

As a nation we have proved that we are not responsible enough to have licensed premises open 24 hours a day. During the week we should revert to the old system of pubs closing at a particular hour. I suggest 2300 hrs. During the week pubs will also close in the afternoon, from 1415 hours to 1800 hrs., having only opened at 1200. Restaurants can continue to serve alcohol to bona fide diners until midnight. No special rules will apply to night clubs and the like which will also have to have entertainment licences supervised by the licensing justices, which licences will be just at risk of removal as the drinks licence. They will observe the same rules and same hours as public houses. If the young complain at this, tough. They have surely demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to behave responsibly in the present framework.

It may be that some touchy-feely politicians will blanch at the prospect of offending the ‘yoof’. If so, let them give way to other politicians who are not ‘touch-feely’. Let us nail responsibility for the present Licensing shambles squarely on the shoulders of the party responsible for it: Labour. It is their shambles, let them pay an electoral price for it.

But above all, give us a Licensing framework which will give us the tools to start getting to grips with this problem. We cannot, surely, go on like this.

To all the scoffers out there, scoff all you like. The old system worked. I worked in pubs when I was aged in my early 20s. I was told when I started what the law was and what my duty as a barman therefore was . Knowing what the law was and that it would back me up I had no qualms about telling, on one occasion, a titled local worthy in his cups who had gone beyond being a pub bore that he had had enough and was not going to have any more. When he protested, offensively, my landlord came in and barred him for life. He then had to drive three miles for a drink and was soon nabbed for drink-driving. Even though this was a remotish village pub, we closed on the dot, because we did periodically get a visit from the local Sergeant whose job it was to monitor licensed premises. We knew the law, that failing to obey it had grave consequences and that the police would enforce it.

I may be a killjoy dinosaur, but hands up all those who would, with me, this morning vote for the ‘killjoy dinosaur’ party.

Advertisements