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Antisocial Behaviour

Volume 551: debated on Monday 15 October 2012

13. What steps she is taking to empower local communities to tackle alcohol-related antisocial behaviour. (122213)

14. What steps she is taking to empower local communities to tackle alcohol-related antisocial behaviour. (122214)

17. What steps she is taking to empower local communities to tackle antisocial behaviour caused by the abuse of alcohol and drugs. (122217)

Together, the Government’s alcohol strategy and White Paper on antisocial behaviour published earlier this year will provide communities with powerful new tools to tackle alcohol-related antisocial behaviour. The Government will also shortly give councils an opportunity to levy a charge for late-night licences and introduce an early morning alcohol restriction order programme.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Lancashire’s excellent Conservative PCC candidate, Tim Ashton, recently visited Colne and met the landlord of the Crown hotel to discuss the CAND—Colne against night-time disorder—scheme. Will my hon. Friend join me in praising excellent schemes such as CAND, whereby landlords work together to combat antisocial behaviour?

I am delighted that there are a number of excellent PCC candidates in the hon. Gentleman’s area, although I am not necessarily sure that I would endorse the one that he has just brought to the House’s attention. I commend the scheme in his area, because it is an extremely good idea for licensed premises to work together to combat antisocial behaviour.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating the Crawley and Gatwick Business Watch? It is pursuing a scheme of labelling so that it can identify where and from which stores alcohol is sold and whether there is alcohol abuse. It also has a system whereby high-strength alcohols are kept under the counter and have to be requested. Will the Minister meet the group?

There is value in alcohol labelling, so that shops and other licensed premises that sell alcohol inappropriately, for example to minors, can be more easily traced and the activity prevented. We are keen to see such innovative practice where it is appropriate.

Recently, I attended a meeting of the Hounslow community and police consultative group, which discussed drug and alcohol-related crime. What advice would my hon. Friend give that group on how to reduce antisocial behaviour that is linked to alcohol and drugs in west London?

I strongly commend my hon. Friend for attending meetings of that sort. The police have a key role to play, as do local authorities because of their responsibility for licensing. In my experience, it is most effective when communities also take responsibility for their area and for the quality of life of the people who live there, and work closely with the police and other institutions to ensure that there is a co-ordinated and effective response to antisocial behaviour.

May I push the Minister, as he is being complacent? Last night, the “File on 4” programme showed the high level of organised crime across our country seeking to evade duty and bring in cheap alcohol. That is costing the Exchequer billions and is bringing cheap and unreliable sources of alcohol to many people in our communities. What is he going to do about it?

I will make two brief points. First, alcohol consumption has fallen in England and Wales over recent years. The second point, which goes to the heart of the hon. Gentleman’s question, is that next year we are introducing the National Crime Agency, which will provide a more coherent, joined-up approach to tackling organised crime. We think that that will be effective in dealing with precisely the problems that he has brought to the attention of the House.

On Saturday morning, Rotherham was the scene of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour, when members of the English Defence League arrived in a pub, tanked themselves up and held a march to spew their anti-Muslim hate. The police handled that brilliantly and I thanked them on the spot, including all the policemen who came into the area from outside. The choice of route meant that Rotherham’s economy lost an amount of six figures or more. Will the new Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice meet me to discuss how the police can route these horrible EDL marches so that they do not cause so much economic damage to our communities?

The right hon. Gentleman may wish to talk to his local police and crime commissioner when that person is elected in a month’s time. I will leave it up to the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice to decide whether he wishes to meet the right hon. Gentleman. Where criminal activity is taking place it should be prevented, but I would not wish people’s ability to express their views to be restricted, however unpleasant those views may be for many Members of this House.

CCTV is a crucial tool in tacking alcohol-related antisocial behaviour. Given that the coalition agreement states that the Government want to “further regulate CCTV”, does the Minister expect the number of local authority and police CCTV cameras to rise or fall by 2015?

We have introduced a code of practice on CCTV. It can play an important role in reducing crime and antisocial behaviour, but—[Interruption.] Let me make one point clear to all the authoritarian hecklers on the other side of the House—[Interruption.]

I simply reject Labour’s idea that we can never have too much surveillance. Where it is appropriate, CCTV can play an important role, but the solution to crime is not always to have more cameras in every corner of our lives, whether public or private.