Thursday 3 December 2009

Pubs face renewed drink-drive threat

It’s reported today that Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has asked legal expert Sir Peter North to draw up plans (yet again) to cut the drink-drive limit. This news is exceptionally galling for pubs and pubgoers as only last year it seemed that any such plans had been rejected for the time being.

During their term of office, New Labour have toyed with this idea on several occasions without ever putting it into effect. Indeed, after the 1997 general election, it seemed for a while that it was inevitable, but those plans were eventually quietly dropped. It is my suspicion that it is the privately-expressed scepticism of senior police officers that has kept the plan from being implemented. However, given that it has been made abundantly clear over the past twelve years that New Labour hate pubs, hate motorists and hate the countryside, what’s not to like with a policy that kills three birds with one stone?

Of course these plans will run into the sand with the General Election being imminent, and there is no guarantee that a new government will implement them, but this is a clear indication that the threat to pubs from a lower limit has not gone away.

Another interesting aspect of the report I link to is how the amount of alcohol represented by the current limit seems to have been deflated over time. I have in my possession an CAMRA publication from about 1980 called 100 Classic Pubs in the Heart of England that explicitly states “the limit equals three pints”. Now, that might be taking a rather optimistic view, but it has always been my understanding since I passed my driving test over thirty years ago that if a man of average build consumed two pints of sub-4% beer he would stay comfortably within the limit – something that is borne out by this TRRL publication from 1986.

However, the report states that “the current 80mg limit equates to one-and-a-half small glasses of wine or one-and-a-half pints of normal strength beer,” which is not the case. In reality, it equates to roughly 5-6 units for a man, and 4-5 units for a woman. A 50 mg limit would still allow someone to legally consume one pint of ordinary-strength beer, or glass of wine, although whether they would think that was worthwhile is of course a moot point.

And, as often stated before, wouldn’t it make more sense to enforce the current limit more effectively rather than impose a lower limit which in practice people will all too often be able to flout with impunity?


  1. The way that we bring in new laws rather than using and enforcing the ones we have seems to be becoming a British (or is it Labour)trait.

  2. It is an example of modern jurisprudence in action. The object is not to convict criminals, but to create more of them.

    As Ayn Rand explained years ago, law-abiding people are less controllable by the state than criminals. So to control people it is helpful to turn them into criminals. When daily life becomes impossible without breaking the law, everyone will be a criminal and hence controllable.

  3. A pointless exercise. Does anyone really believe that cutting the limit will actually accomplish anything?

  4. All it will achieve is to deter law-abiding people from visiting pubs. It won't do anything to stop pissed-up drivers, many of whom haven't been drinking in pubs in the first place.

  5. I was talking to Bob Dockerty, owner of Larkins Brewery, on this very subject just the other day. Larkins are based in the tiny village of Chiddingstone, and most of their trade is with country pubs.
    We were bemoaning the number of pubs in rural areas that have closed in recent years, prompted by the news that yet another country pub, supplied by the brewery, has recently closed its doors for the last time.
    Bob claimed that the local gendarmes were deliberately targetting remote country pubs, with the inevitable result that sensible, moderdate drinkers are being scared away. If New Liebour get their way and further reduce the limit for drink driving, then we may as well kiss goodbye to the traditional country pub. As you point out though, what a good friend of mine refers to as "the class of'68", (ie, the Trotskyite, former late 1960's students, turned lawyers, that are currently running the country) hate the countryside. along with motorists and pubs, so why not go ahead and kill them all off?

    ps. Brian - am currently half-way through reading Ayn Rand's masterpiece, "Atlas Shrugged". Frightening that the events described in a novel written 50 years ago are coming to pass!!

  6. I have heard a fair bit of anecdotal evidence that the police have been deliberately targeting wet-led country pubs with the intention of closing them down, especially with regard to rural Staffordshire.

    I don't in any way condone people who knowingly drive when over the current limit, but even if you were entirely law-abiding, being pulled up by the police might well make you think twice about going to the pub at all.

  7. Surely it is not unreasonable to expect anyone driving not to drink? I don't have a problem with the police doing random breath tests on top of what they do at the moment, even though civil liberties people would be up in arms about it. In 34 years of driving I've not been breathalysed once, not that I drink and drive, but I wouldn't object to being stopped. You can argue about mgs, how the law is applied, etc. etc. but one death through drink-driving is a death too many!

  8. Random breath tests are a completely separate issue, but of course what is described as such is in fact something entirely different, namely "unfettered discretion". See my earlier post Random Repression.

    "Given recent news stories about the abuse of police powers, you have to question whether the police should be given “unfettered discretion” to wipe their own backsides."

    And, whenever someone says "if it only saves one life it's worth it", I immediately get the whiff of a bad argument.


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