AN overhaul of the licensing laws, due to be unveiled in next week's Government White Paper, should take us a further step along the road to a more civilised drinking culture in this country.

The need to encourage a more sensible approach to alcohol was illustrated last week at Teesside Crown Court. The court heard a young man with his first pay packet celebrated by getting drunk and "glassing" another man. He was convicted of unlawful wounding.

The incident took place at a Darlington nightclub, strangely not named in the court action, which charges customers a flat fee for entrance with the promise of free drinks - as many as you can stomach - thereafter. The young man had, it is thought, drunk 15 to 20 vodkas.

The club's policy was rightly condemned last week by the judge and this week by the local police chief and ward councillor. All-you-can-drink offers are bound to lead to excessive consumption and, in some individuals, excessive behaviour.

It is believed the White Paper will remove some of the remaining time restrictions on the serving of alcohol but will balance that with greater powers for the police and local authorities to control those who hold licenses. This could mean an end to happy hours and all-you-can drink offers which are such an incentive to drink inappropriately.

In doing so it will help to discourage the binge drinking which lies at the heart of so much trouble in our town centres and may be the first step towards alcoholism for many individuals.