Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Clear blue water

It was good to see within 24 hours of Lord Adonis announcing that he was seriously considering cutting the drink-drive limit, the Tories saying clearly that they did not back the plan.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Theresa Villiers, the shadow transport secretary, made clear a Tory Government would leave the limit unchanged.

“If the Conservatives win the election, we will not reduce the limit to 50 milligrams. We don't think the case has been made for change.

“Other countries in Europe also have lighter penalties. We feel the best thing is to maintain the current limit and a mandatory ban and ensure that it is properly enforced.”
Now please don’t think that I am a cheerleader for the Tories, because I am not, and I have been highly critical in the past of their apparent attempts to outbid Labour on who can have the toughest anti-drink stance. But it is clear on this particular issue that, if you live in the countryside, the suburbs or a small town, or ever visit pubs in those locations, your vote could made a difference to their future.

On a related note, I was thinking that at least, unlike with the smoking ban, nobody could make the claim that cutting the drink-drive limit would actually boost the business of pubs. But I wonder how long it will be before some twerp stands up and says it will make people more aware of the opportunities to visit pubs by public transport when their ability to drink alcohol will not be so constrained.


  1. Rural public transport is already limited, and in these parts at least, stops running to the outlying towns by 8 pm. So visiting those out-of-town pubs in the evening can't be done on the buses.

    Besides, there are muttered plans to keep anyone who's been drinking off public transport. The Precious Ones don't like the smell.

  2. there are muttered plans to keep anyone who's been drinking off public transport.

    Ooh, I wonder what CAMRA's Public Transport Task Group will have to say about that ;-)

    It often seems that having an anal enthusiasm for trains or buses is a key qualification for CAMRA membership.

    You might find this post from 2007 rather amusing.

  3. Public transport aside, why should reducing the drink driving limit cause any grievance. Forget any nanny state argument, alcohol and drink do not mix well, not even in small amounts.
    The fact public transport isn't available is no excuse for driving to a pub, drinking and driving home.

  4. Do you have a driving licence, Mark?

  5. I do, one of nearly a decade. Why, should that alter my opinion?

  6. Hands up I am a Tory Party member, so please be as cynical as you like on my points but the Tory Party have got the message on the nanny state, although the Shadow Health Minister Anderew Lansley needs to catch up a bit.

    Conservative Home the Tory Party's website, is read by every senior Tory had poll results on an amendment to the smoking ban being at 58% and 72% for private clubs. On minimum pricing of alcohol reader after reader piled in to condemn the idea as being nanny statish that you expect from Labour.

    I sincerely believe the message has got through. Conservative MPs who I have met overwhelmingly agree with me in private conversations and rarely find one which wants to increase legislation on hard pressed pubs and customers.

    I hope my optimism is vindicated.

  7. it will make people more aware of the opportunities to visit pubs by public transport when their ability to drink alcohol will not be so constrained

  8. There's always one :P

    More likely, of course, it will encourage them to stay at home and drink lout out of the fridge.

  9. Mark, I was wondering what your thoughts were on "bottle-to-throttle", as it is likely that, with a lower limit, many responsible people will be deterred from visiting pubs at all "on a school night" for fear of being over the limit on the morning after.

  10. An issue I encountered only this morning having spent an evening at The Sheffield Tap last night!

    I'm lucky enough to be able to choose between car, bus and train for the short commute to work but if I relied on driving to work I would be certainly put off having a bender the night before. However it wouldn't put me off two or three pints and a game of darts on a week night. The reason I don't do this regularly and haven't adopted a local pub in the 3 years I've lived where I do is pretty much threefold: frugality, the fact my living room is much more comfortable and in particular the quality of pubs near my house.

    You're right to point out that it's local 'pub' pubs that will lose out though, Sunday afternoon dinners with the family in a country pub aren't likely to be affected as much, I would guess.

    Anyway, my take on the drink driving limit is that despite drink driving being hugely frowned on it's still commonplace (in my personal experience). (Some) people believe 1) that they can get away with driving on a few pints and 2) that they can have 2 or 3 pints and be perfectly fine to drive behind the wheel. That's not a good attitude and whilst I'm sure it's in the minority I've personal experience of seeing people still get in the driving seat over the limit.

    So a reduction in limit sounds like one option for helping reduce instances like that? Perhaps it not the right one, what do you think?

  11. While you are perfectly entitled to argue that it is a price worth paying in terms of road safety, it would be naïve to assume that cutting the drink-drive limit would not have a negative effect on the business of a great number of pubs, by no means solely in out-of-town locations. And it should be pointed out that, even if some may see it as irresponsible, according to both conventional wisdom and the TRRL booklet I linked to, driving after consuming two pints of ordinary-strength beer is currently a lawful activity.

    And if people are knowingly exceeding the current limit, then why should a lower limit do anything to change their behaviour?

  12. The lower the limit is the more people who won't believe they can get away with it. I'm pretty sure at the moment 2 pints at 3.5% is ok but stronger than that and dependent on metabolism you're actually on dangerous ground in terms of the limit.

    Anyway a reduction in the limit is no silver bullet and might not be the appropriate approach. Naive maybe but from where I'm standing there are many more factors that are and will effect pubs over the next years and decades, particularly for a younger generation.

    Perhaps we can get together for a beer to discuss sometime, we could probably discuss all night!

  13. And I'm not arguing anything Mudgie ;-) to put it in a beery cheery way I'm just debating it and learning different points of view as I go along

  14. If people are motivated to abide by the law, and believe they are doing so, then in terms of the impact on pubs it is that belief that matters, even if it may be mistaken. If the limit was cut, then anyone not wishing to risk falling foul of the law would either consume less or not visit the pub at all. The potential effect on the trade of pubs only points one way, and that is downwards.


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. To combat persistent trolling, unregistered comments are liable to be deleted unless I recognise the author. If you intend to make more than the occasional comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.