Alcohol-related Crime

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6th February 2012.

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Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Labour, Islwyn 2:30 pm, 6th February 2012

What steps she is taking to reduce alcohol-related crime.

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys

What steps she is taking to reduce alcohol-related crime.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

What steps she is taking to reduce alcohol-related crime.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Alcohol should no longer be the driver of crime and disorder that it has been over the past decade. That is why we have legislated to give the police and local communities more powers to tackle late-night drinking problems and to crack down on those selling alcohol to children. We will set out further actions in our forthcoming alcohol strategy.

Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Labour, Islwyn

The Gwent police “Town Safe” scheme has reduced violent alcohol-induced crime by 27% in the past year. Will the Minister meet me and a delegation from Gwent police to discuss how we might roll this scheme out?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I congratulate local initiatives and partnerships that make a significant difference in their communities. I remember travelling to Newquay to see a very effective partnership scheme addressing these problems in the south-west. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman’s community on taking the step he mentions, and I am certainly willing to consider a request to meet representatives of the scheme to hear more about it.

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys

I welcome the launch of the public consultation on the regulation of late-night drinking venues. What powers does the Minister intend to place in the hands of my constituents so that they can minimise the disruption and harm caused by so much late-night drinking in town centres such as Blackpool’s?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend highlights a problem that we have identified: we must ensure that local communities have a proper say on licensing matters. That is why we have legislated to strengthen the powers of councils to clamp down on late-night drinking and sales after midnight, if they so choose. That is also why we are introducing the late-night levy to provide some element of cost reimbursement for dealing with the problems associated with late-night drinking. Equally importantly, on an individual basis we must ensure that people can make representations on licensing. These matters must not be subject to the over-restrictive requirements adopted by the previous Government.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Is the Minister aware of the Alcohol Health Alliance research suggesting that the Government’s proposed ban on the sale of alcohol at below the cost of duty plus VAT will increase the price of only one in every 4,000 drinks sold? What reduction in alcohol-related crime does the Minister expect to follow on from that?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman seeks to criticise the fact that the Government have recognised that the availability of cheap alcohol is a significant issue that needs addressing, because Alan Johnson certainly suggested that the previous Government did not do that. He said:

“I regret not doing more to tackle the problems caused by binge drinking”.

The Government recognise those problems and we are actually acting to do something about them, unlike the previous Government.

Photo of Sarah Wollaston Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes

What estimate has the Minister made of the extent to which cheap alcohol is fuelling the rise in domestic violence?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend highlights the very relevant issue of the connection between alcohol and domestic violence and abuse in the home. Studies have drawn attention to that, which is why we are seeking to take the action that we have been taking, through controls on licensing and addressing the issue of pricing. We will be providing further details on the Government’s alcohol strategy shortly.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

As the Minister knows, alcohol-related crime costs £7.3 billion a year. Four years ago, the Select Committee on Home Affairs recommended that a minimum price for alcohol be introduced. The Scottish Government have accepted that, but neither the previous Government nor this one have done so. Is it not time that we told the big supermarkets that the level of cheap alcohol in supermarkets is actually fuelling this crime?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I certainly recognise the problems linked to alcohol-fuelled crime; there were about 900,000 violent crimes linked to alcohol in 2010-11. I also know that this issue has been flagged up before by the right hon. Gentleman in debate and by the work of his Committee. The Government are committed to tackling the harms of alcohol, and we recognise that the availability of cheap alcohol is a significant issue that needs addressing. He will recognise that some complex issues are involved in terms of regulation and other aspects. We are continuing to examine this matter carefully and closely, recognising that price is a relevant and important factor in dealing with this problem.

Photo of Stephen Gilbert Stephen Gilbert Liberal Democrat, St Austell and Newquay

In an earlier answer the Minister referred to the success of the Newquay partnership in tackling alcohol-related disorder. That partnership would be hugely more successful if there were a specific offence of urinating in the street. Will the Government consider the introduction of that offence?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend has highlighted an issue of wanton antisocial behaviour, and I was struck by how the police are having to deal with some antisocial problems in his community. There are offences on the statute book that could be used to deal with the problem that he has identified, but if he is willing to write to me, I will certainly look into this matter in further detail.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Labour, Birkenhead

May I bring the Minister back to the issue of minimum pricing for alcohol? In Merseyside, the city region’s poverty and life chances commission has advocated a minimum price per unit of alcohol. Is that strategy, which is to cover six boroughs, one that he supports?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Government believe that alcohol pricing and taxation are matters best handled at a national level, but where there are suitable local solutions we will welcome them. A number of challenges are involved in delivering local pricing policies, and we will work with local authorities and the trade to consider the legal and practical implications of this issue.