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Volume 515: debated on Monday 6 September 2010

The Government are determined to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder. We launched the consultation “Rebalancing the Licensing Act” on 28 July. We have held seven national and seven regional stakeholder events to consult with the police, licensing authorities and representatives from the trade on the coalition Government’s proposals. The Government will be analysing the responses, and we intend to take forward the proposals in the forthcoming police reform and social responsibility Bill.

The misuse of alcohol has a considerable negative impact on the health of our citizens, and it increases crime. What will the Government do to stop the inappropriate and excessive advertising of alcohol, often geared towards young people, in cinemas, on commercial TV stations and in TV storylines?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his observations. He is absolutely correct to raise the health impact of alcohol as well as its impact on crime. The most recent figures show that over the five years to 2008-09, there were 825 more alcohol-related admissions to hospital per day than during the previous five years. This is a very real issue. We are considering a number of actions in relation to the sale of alcohol, the unit cost of alcohol and the powers of licensing authorities. If the hon. Gentleman has a specific proposal, I suggest that he puts it to the Home Office as part of the consultation.

The media often focus attention on celebrities and footballers as poor role models for children, but does the Home Secretary recognise the sad fact that almost 1 million children have an alcohol-dependent parent as a role model? What more can the Government do to prevent so many families from being broken by alcohol abuse?

My hon. Friend also raises an important point about the impact that alcohol can have. He has taken an interest in such issues, particularly the impact on family life, for some time. The first thing for the Government is to give a clear message about alcohol through the action that we take on licensing. Sadly, a message was given by the last Government, with their 24-hour licensing laws that were due to create a café culture in the United Kingdom, but failed to do so. We have seen that leading to more problems with alcohol.

What plans does the Home Secretary have to ensure that licensed premises apply effective age verification procedures?

The hon. Gentleman also raises an important point about trying to ensure that alcohol is used responsibly and that those with responsibility to ensure that alcohol is being consumed or purchased only by those of an age to do so should act appropriately. One of the issues that we are looking at specifically in our proposals is the action that can be taken against shops or bars found to be persistently selling alcohol to children. We are considering giving greater powers to councils and police to shut such premises down permanently.