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Alcohol Abuse

Volume 636: debated on Monday 26 February 2018

15. What recent assessment she has made of the effect of alcohol abuse on levels of crime and costs of policing. (904008)

As a proportion of overall violence, alcohol-related violent crime climbed steadily from 41% in 1995 to 55% in 2009-10. More recently, it has fallen back to 40% of all violent crime in 2016-17. The cost of alcohol misuse to society is estimated to be around £21 billion a year, with alcohol-related crime estimated to account for around £11 billion a year. We continue to work with the police to equip them with the right powers to take effective action.

The Minister is obviously aware of the terrible damage that alcohol does, but is she aware of a recent report implicating alcohol as a major factor in child abuse among other things? When are the Government going to take serious, comprehensive and effective action to reduce alcohol abuse, and the suffering and cost that it still inflicts across our society?

Both the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care take this issue very seriously. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Secretary of State for Health recently announced a report on helping children of alcoholic parents. Violent crime is down and alcohol consumption overall is down, particularly among young people, but of course it is very important to look at this issue, particularly in relation to domestic abuse. We will be looking at how we can deal with it, in combination with the Department of Health, as part of our modern crime prevention strategy.

It has just been confirmed that all alcoholic drinks in Scotland must cost at least 50p per unit from May this year. Will the Minister now review our alcohol strategy to allow us to take up this evidence-based policy that will do so much to tackle the scourge of cheap, high-strength alcohol and reduce pressure on our emergency services?

We are of course aware of the Scottish Parliament’s policy on this, and we are looking at it with interest. We set out our alcohol strategy in the 2016 strategy on dealing with modern crime, but we keep the issue under review.

I was one of those who was persuaded years back that we needed to reform our late-night drinking laws. The reality is that this has been a failure. Will the Government seriously consider talking to our police forces and local authorities about how we can ensure a more rational way of dealing with late-night drinking, so that we do not see the problems that it currently causes?

Very much so. This is obviously a matter for review and for police and crime commissioners and local police forces to look at in their own local areas. We have changed the late-night levy to try to make it more flexible and targeted, so that district councils and others can use it for the areas that present the most harm in terms of the night-time economy.

On Saturday night I was out with Inspector Simon Jenkinson and his team seeing how they police Torquay’s night-time economy. Does the Minister agree that it is important that councils work with their local policing teams? Will she agree to meet to discuss how we can review some of the more outdated provisions, such as the Vagrancy Acts, which have a real impact on our night-time economy?

Local councils and local policing teams know where the hotspots of trouble can be in their local areas. That is why it is essential that councils and police work together. Of course I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this important issue.