I’ve discussed the whys and wherefores of this issue at length in the past, for example here, so don’t intend to repeat myself. However, there are three specific points that spring to mind.
- It would be ironic if this ended up being implemented by a Conservative government, when the Tories have long been seen as the natural champions of the motorist, the licensed trade and the countryside. Many long-standing Tory voters will be distinctly unhappy about it, and I can imagine Cameron touring his constituency in rural Oxfordshire being asked by angry landlords why he wants to put them out of business. If it does happen, it will produce an abiding legacy of bitterness in rural areas. I’m convinced that the smoking ban has had a greater effect on eroding working-class support for the Labour Party than is usually acknowledged.
- Talk of cutting the headline limit ignores the issue of penalties. Most Continental countries that nominally have a 50mg limit do not impose driving bans until an offender is over 80mg, and sometimes even at a higher figure. In contrast, Scotland now has one of the strictest drink-drive regimes in Europe, as it imposes year-long bans at 50mg and, because of a quirk in the law, does not even allow the small margin of tolerance that applies in England and Wales. Surely a less serious offence should deserve a lower penalty.
- This will inevitably focus more attention on the “morning after” issue, as the threshold for the amount you can drink in the evening and be under the limit the following morning will be correspondingly reduced. Given that, outside London, well over 50% of commuters drive themselves to work, this will potentially have an impact on pubs even in dense urban areas.
The government has also traditionally been very reluctant to explain the principle of “unit counting” which drinkers can use to give an approximation of when they will be able to legally drive after drinking. So, following the declaration of an official line that no quantity of alcohol can be considered safe in terms of health risk, might we see broad-brush, catch-all advice that, if you have drunk anything at all, you shouldn’t drive for a further 24 hours?