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Excessive Drinking

Volume 577: debated on Monday 10 March 2014

1. What resources her Department is making available at a local level to help tackle the harmful effects on communities of excessive drinking. (902903)

The Government are providing direct support to 20 areas in England and Wales, including Greater Manchester, to tackle the harmful effects of excessive drinking, particularly alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder. We have also overhauled the Licensing Act 2003, giving local areas the tools and powers they need to deal with problem premises, and to secure a financial contribution towards policing the night-time economy.

I thank the Home Secretary for that answer, and particularly for the work that will be done in Greater Manchester. May I draw her attention to the plea of the director of public health for Stockport, who is concerned that the action of the alcohol industry is, to some extent, holding licensing authorities to ransom? Will she include that in her consideration of this important matter?

My right hon. Friend makes an important point, and we want to ensure that licensing authorities can use the tools and powers that the Government have given them. We gave them those tools and powers for a very good reason and because of our concern on two counts relating to alcohol abuse and the problems that arise from it—the cost to the police and society generally of crime and disorder related to alcohol, and also the health costs that arise.

19. A report by The Lancet estimated that there were more than 200,000 alcohol-related crimes in the north-east in just a year, and that a minimum unit price would save 860 lives a year and cut hospital admissions by 30,000. Is it time that the Secretary of State totally disregarded the drinks industry lobby and introduced a minimum unit price to help make people healthier and safer at home? (902921)

We are going to introduce a ban on the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT. That was a coalition agreement commitment, which will be introduced this April. We are also working with the industry and challenging it to ensure that it raises its game in dealing with problems related to excessive binge drinking and alcohol use, and we will watch what happens. Obviously Scotland is moving on the minimum unit price. There are legal issues and it will be interesting to see what evidence arises from that.

Following the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), some of us believe that the primary problem with alcohol is a health problem rather than one of disorder and crime. Is the Home Secretary working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that we deal with alcohol seriously?

Yes, I assure the hon. Gentleman that we work closely with the Department of Health on this issue. Although the Home Office leads on alcohol strategy, the strategy work is done by both the Home Office and the Department of Health.