'Crime down' with 24-hour drinking
Violent crime, binge drinking and drink-driving accidents have decreased since the relaxing of licensing laws a decade ago, a new report shows.
Nor has there been a rise in alcohol A&E admissions or in alcohol-related deaths, according to the research.
Drinking, Fast and Slow: Ten Years of the Licensing Act reveals the disastrous outcomes predicted at the time have not come to pass.
Figures show alcohol consumption per capita fell by 17% between 2005 and 2013, the biggest decline since the 1930s.
Director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs Christopher Snowdon, who wrote the report, said facilitating longer hours may have been the best thing the Labour Party ever did.
He added: "The hysteria about so-called 24-hour drinking ranks as one of the great moral panics of our time, but the evidence is now clear.
"The doom-mongers were wrong. Far from bringing about the catastrophic repercussions that were forecast when it was introduced, the Licensing Act has coincided with a fall in binge-drinking and made little difference to the rate of crime and alcohol-related health problems.
"The biggest consequence of relaxing licensing laws has been that the public are now better able to enjoy a drink at the time and location of their choice."
The report finds that the greater availability of alcohol has not coincided with a surge in demand, with consumption in fact falling substantially since 2005.
Over the same period, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds binge drinking has fallen from 29% to 18% and from 25% to 19% among 25 to 44-year-olds, and b eing teetotal is now as common among 16 to 24-year-olds as pensioners.
The report also highlights the fall in the rate of violent crime in England and Wales - a drop of 40% since 2004/5 - and the 28% decline in the number of domestic violence incidents.