Burnley Lib Dem breaks ranks over teen drink plans

One Lib Dem candidate has already broken ranks over the party’s plans to lower the legal drinking age to 16. Today’s Lancashire Evening Telegraph reports:

THE LIBERAL Democrats’ parliamentary hopeful in Burnley is at odds with his party bosses over teen drinking.
Gordon Birtwistle, former mayor and the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate said he would fight any lowering of the age limit.

His comments came after proposals to lower the legal drinking age in pubs from 18 to 16 were condemned by East Lancashire MP Peter Pike.

Mr Pike hit out after Lib Dem Culture, Media and Sport spokesman Don Foster told the House of Commons it was his party’s policy, claiming allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to legally buy booze would reduce binge-drinking.

Mr Pike said: “At a time when communities and the police are working hard together to tackle binge drinking it beggars belief that a member of leader Charles Kennedy’s front bench team has announced a policy for the Lib Dems that would allow 16-year-olds to drink in pubs and buy alcohol in the shops.

“This summer we were part of an underage drinking crackdown in Burnley which highlighted the problems with underage drinking.

“Legalising it would not solve these problems, it would only exacerbate them and we would probably find increasing numbers of ever younger teenagers drinking .

“Only a fool could believe Lib Dem claims that lowering the age would lower binge drinking and not cause it to soar.

“Charles Kennedy and his Burnley candidate Gordon Birtwistle must publicly renounce Don Foster’s remarks and make clear that he will have no truck with his party’s policy to let minors buy alcohol.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Burnley Gordon Birtwistle hit back: “Eighteen is a quite correct age to buy alcohol and I would argue against any change.”

How many more Lib Dems will join him?