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Alcohol-Related Crime

Volume 264: debated on Thursday 19 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on alcohol-related crime. [36504]

I am considering the report by the all-party group on alcohol misuse. Although the majority of alcohol consumption is trouble free, for some individuals there is clearly an association between offending, especially violence, and heavy alcohol abuse.

Is the Minister aware that, according to the British Medical Association, two in three homicides and three in four stabbings are associated with alcohol misuse? Will he take this opportunity to endorse the message from the all-party group that, while people should be able to enjoy a drink without causing trouble for others, greater governmental action is needed to tackle the scale of alcohol-related crime? Will he ensure that, in future, equal priority is given to tackling alcohol-related crime as is currently given to the battle against drugs and crime?

Action is being taken. I am considering the hon. Gentleman's report but I am loth to try to single out one category of alcohol-related crime. We must tackle alcohol abuse—various Departments are doing so—and crime. Action is being taken on those two fronts and the police are reducing crime, including violence, for the first time in 50 years. The message on sensible drinking is getting through, and these days young people drink less than their parents and older generations. Spending on beer and spirits has fallen considerably in the past 15 years. We shall keep up the action on all those fronts, including the education front. I commend to the hon. Gentleman a leaflet that I published when I was Minister responsible for food three years ago.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that police officers in Lichfield hold the view that much crime is caused by people leaving pubs all at the same time—at 11 o'clock on a Friday or Saturday night? Will his Department consider changing the licensing laws to allow staggered closing times so that some pubs could close after 11 pm and some before 11 pm?

Those who stagger are less of a problem than those who do not. I commend to my hon. Friend or any police force concerned about that problem some of the research that has been carried out by the police research group in my Department, and some of the excellent experiments in the country. In Rhyl, the police, together with the licensing magistrate and the local authority, took on the problem and, by using their existing powers to stagger closing hours and deal with fast-food outlets on the highway, drastically reduced the level of incidents outside pubs and nightclubs. The evidence exists and it can be copied throughout the country without the need for primary legislation.