The Government are bringing forward a package of measures to ensure that alcohol is no longer the driver of crime and disorder that it has been over the past decade. Measures range from giving more powers to local communities over licensing decisions, to cracking down on those selling alcohol to children and trialling a sobriety scheme to reduce offending. Those provisions are in addition to the introduction of wider measures to address antisocial behaviour.
My hon. Friend has raised a very important point on the whole issue of the irresponsibility of alcohol being sold to children. We have taken steps to double the maximum fine to those who are selling alcohol persistently to under-age children to £20,000, and to increase the powers of the police and local councils to close such premises down permanently. We are working with other Departments, and the Department of Health is leading on an alcohol strategy that will take into account further issues. I am under no illusions about the important role that parents and schools also have, which is why further action is being taken.
Yes. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have stated clearly their intention to ban below-cost sales, with the first measure being the banning of sales below duty plus VAT. I can confirm to him that those proposals will be implemented on 1 April next year.
I thank my hon. Friend for his typical contribution to these debates. In dealing with issues of alcohol, we need to ensure that we have robust powers to deal with alcohol-related antisocial behaviour, as we are doing. We also need to deal with pricing, which is why we are banning below-cost sales, and with prevention, which is why we will be taking further action in relation to schools, parents and the health service.
Michael Connarty is not here, so I call Mark Hendrick. [Interruption.] Order. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) to say that the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames) wants to ask about the food industry, but the question on the Order Paper is not about the food industry.