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Alcohol-related Crime

Volume 447: debated on Monday 19 June 2006

A series of alcohol misuse enforcement campaigns have targeted public violence and disorder caused by binge drinking since 2004. We believe that the success of those campaigns has contributed to reductions in more serious violent crime. For example, during the third campaign, police and local authority partners visited some 27,000 licensed premises, dealt with about 33,000 offences, made 25,000 arrests and issued approximately 8,000 fixed penalty notices for alcohol-related offences. In addition, it is important that the alcohol industry plays an important role in improving standards, especially with reference to binge drinking.

Trends in recorded crime due to alcohol are higher in large cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and, to a lesser extent, Salford. We have happily experienced some improvements in Salford—indeed, 11 local authorities in the north-west have experienced a fall in recorded crime. However, does my hon. Friend agree that local authorities and the alcohol industry need to crack down on the matter, which is a genuine quality-of-life issue in our urban areas, to accelerate those improvements and try to make them more even throughout our regions?

I agree: it is only through such partnerships that these matters can be dealt with successfully. This is as much about education and awareness in schools as it is about licensing regimes, the police, and the crime reduction strategies in each local authority. Partnership is the key to dealing with this issue.

Did the Minister notice the tone of censoriousness that crept into the answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan), when she said that many children obtained alcohol from their parents? Does the Minister not agree that the best place for children to learn to use alcohol moderately and sensibly is in their family?

Strangely or otherwise, I do agree, although not about the censorious nature of my hon. Friend’s response. The hon. Gentleman will know from a recent survey of drinking patterns that abuse of alcohol is more often than not started by parents giving drinks to their children at an unduly early age. However, he is right. As a starting premise, education and the awareness of a balanced use of alcohol must start at home with the family.

I congratulate the Government on the steps that they are taking to tackle binge drinking, but much more education needs to be given to our young people about its effect on not only their health but their safety while they are out. What discussions has my hon. Friend had with the Department for Education and Skills? Experience suggests that, while our young people are given a great deal of education on the effects of illegal drugs, they do not always get very much on the effects of over-indulgence in alcohol.

I agree, and the Home Office, the Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Health and others are talking far more readily about all these matters in order to address the issues. Local government and the alcohol industry are also participating in the rounded partnership to which I referred in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Barbara Keeley). Every aspect of the issues must be covered, as the way in which we deal with them is multi-faceted. I will ensure that the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) are passed on to the DFES and to the Department of Health, as well as to the Home Office.