Friday, 9 May 2008

Treating adults like children

Travellers face a ban on drinking alcohol on trains, buses and trams across the country, it was revealed last night.

The drastic plan to cut loutish behaviour will be considered as part of a Government review aimed at making public transport safer.

It comes less than a week after Boris Johnson swept to victory in the London mayoral contest on the same policy - leading to claims that a desperate Labour Party is stealing Tory clothes.

Announcing the review yesterday, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "I understand people's concerns about anti-social behaviour on public transport. We want to stamp out antisocial behaviour on our buses, trains and trams.

"If more powers are needed to protect staff and the travelling public, we will provide them."

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the Tories were delighted their ideas were being copied by the Government, but added that the devil would be in the detail. He said: "Even when this Government looks like it is getting it right, it often ends up getting it wrong."

Police already have powers to designate trains and coaches going to and from sporting events as "dry", but a wider ban would prove controversial.

Critics warn that it could fail to curb violence as troublemakers have usually been bingeing in pubs and clubs. It would also stop law-abiding travellers enjoying a glass of wine with a meal on an inter-city journey.

It could even raise the farcical prospect of passengers on Eurostar trains being made to drink up before entering England. Opponents point to the differences between a long cross-country trip and a short Tube ride in London.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: "A drinks ban on all public transport including long-distance rail would be completely over the top, widely ignored and impossible to enforce.

"This would be the nanny state gone mad. Ordinary passengers should not be punished for the misbehaviour of a minority."

A spokesman for the Police Federation said additional officers would be needed. "It could involve an enormous amount of officers and there are definite questions about how it would work and how officers would be protected," he added.
And for every extra officer who is deployed to prevent the consumption of alcohol on trains or buses there will, of course, be one less officer out preventing, you know, real crimes.

I must say that I find this whole idea utterly ludicrous, albeit not surprising, coming as it does from a government which seems to think that if it isn't banning something this week, it isn't doing its job properly. Indeed, the government is being so ridiculous that I actually find myself forced into agreement with Chris Huhne!

Because the fact is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, people drinking alcohol on public transport cause no trouble whatsoever, and pose no danger to anyone. True, you do occasionally get drunks on trains, and, in a very small number of cases, they cause trouble. But, if a drunk does cause trouble on a train (or any other form of public transport), then there are, it may astonish Jacqui Smith and Boris Johnson to learn, plenty of laws providing for that.
Besides which, I would add that, in my experience, people do not tend to make the transition from sobriety to inebriation while travelling: on the contrary, every on-train drunk that I have ever seen has been completely plastered long before they boarded the train. Banning alcohol on public transport will have absolutely no impact on these people. It will, however, serve to prevent large numbers of decent, law-abiding, adults from engaging in perfectly innocuous behaviour, while treating them as though they were errant children into the bargain.

But then again, maybe that's the point...

4 comments:

JuliaM said...

"if a drunk does cause trouble on a train (or any other form of public transport), then there are, it may astonish Jacqui Smith and Boris Johnson to learn, plenty of laws providing for that."

Yes. But they haven't been enforced, and Boris has no power to get them enforced, because he doesn't issue orders to the Met.

What he can do is change the conditions of carraige to create a 'zero tolerance' atmosphere - clutching a can of Stella? No leeway.

I don't like it either, but it's probably the only thing he can do in the circumstance.

Alex said...

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "I understand people's concerns about anti-social behaviour on public transport. We want to stamp out antisocial behaviour on our buses, trains and trams.

Note the emotive use of the word "our". Does "Jacqui" Smith ever travel on a bus or a tram ?

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

In Queensland, there is a $150 fine for eating or drinking ANYTHING on public transport. It frankly boggles the mind that you were allowed to drink alcohol on the Tube.

yokel said...

When the ban on smoking in public places (and plenty of private ones as well) was introduced, it seemed to me that its intention was to start on the delivery of a docile population who will always do as they are told. Essential to have obedient citizens in your EU Empire.

This ban on alcohol is the next stage. What is the betting on the next move being to put alcohol behind/under the counter so that it is not on display? Just the way the cigarettes are going. It will have to be a big counter!