Drink-related Crime

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th June 1989.

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Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East 12:00 am, 15th June 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has made any recent studies of methods used in the United States of America in combating drink-related crime; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Experience internationally—the failures as well as the successes—is taken into account as we work out policy. We have done a lot to tackle alcohol misuse here through crime prevention. We have also strengthened the powers of licensing justices and the law on sales to under-age drinkers, and I have approved experimental byelaws in seven areas to ban the consumption of alcohol in public places.

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, in response to rising drink-related crime among young people, every American state has now raised its legal drinking age to 21? Will he ensure that the lessons of that experience will be considered not only by his Department but by the ministerial group on alcohol misuse, which is chaired by our right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I believe that my hon. Friend is right in saying that all the American states have raised the legal drinking age to 21, and I gather that a lively debate about that degree of prohibition is still in progress. I would rather ensure that our own law, under which the legal drinking age is 18, is enforced effectively, and that magistrates and police are reminded of the powers that they already have to deal with disorderly pubs or places where under-age drinking occurs. I agree, however, that we must keep an eye on what happens in the United States as a result of the change.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The Home Secretary knows that the work of his own research unit shows that disorder and drunkenness go together, not so much in the rural regions as in the non-metropolitan areas. That research was invaluable in pinpointing the sites of such disorder. In the light of what it has shown, will the Home Secretary do two things? First, will he talk to the traditional friends of the Conservative party—the brewers—about their advertising and about helping to enforce our existing drinking laws? Secondly, may I again ask the right hon. Gentleman to give local authorities and others involved in youth work the resources to provide young people with creative leisure, which—whatever the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) may say—they do not enjoy at present?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Of course my right hon. Friend the Lord President, as chairman of the ministerial group, is constantly in touch with the drinks industry, and we co-operate closely with the industry in such matters. The link between drinking and disorder which the hon. Gentleman has accurately described is contrary to the industry's interests, so it is naturally on our side.

I repeat what I said before: a mass of schemes exist to provide leisure facilities, and I do not think that young people in this country have ever had more such facilities. The difficulty is that expectations of excitement are also much greater than they have ever been. The matter cannot be dealt with just as the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight

Can my right hon. Friend reassure hon. Members on both sides of the House, as well as the brewing industry, that one of the American methods that he will not be studying is prohibition?