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Home Affairs Committee calls for ban on alcohol promotions

A Home Affairs Select Committee report on policing has found that alcohol-related crime is straining the resources of the police force, taking officers away from dealing with other types of crime, and from being a visible presence in local communities.

The report notes that since the introduction of the new Licensing Act, a range of additional legislation has been brought in, including penalty notices for disorder (PNDs), drinking banning order, designated public place orders and others.

According to Chief Superintendent Neil Wain, resources rather than legal measures are key to reducing alcohol-fuelled crime:

  • Policing the night time economy is resource intensive and often draws officers away from other areas. This is fine while national campaigns are running, when extra funding is pumped in by the Government. This often results in short term success but when Government money dries up I believe there is an expectation from the Government that the same success can be achieved without the resources.

The report places considerable emphasis on the responsibilities of those who profit from the sale of alcohol. Recommendations include increasing the use of provisions within the Licensing Act for local authorities to refuse licenses or impose conditions, and support in principle for the use of Alcohol Disorder Zones, though with some reservations about the bureaucracy that may be involved in practice.

The strongest recommendations from the committee relate to the price and promotion of alcohol:

  • The cheap availability of alcohol in the off-trade is fuelling alcohol-related crime and disorder and under-age drinking … We recommend the Government establish as soon as possible a legal basis for banning the use of loss-leading by supermarkets and setting a minimum price for the sale of alcohol.
  • KPMG has issued a damning verdict on the negligible impact of the alcohol trade’s Social Responsibility Standards. The standards need to be reissued on a compulsory basis with a more effective inspection regime and penalties for breaches. They should include a ban on drinks promotions and measures to ensure responsible labelling and staff training.

Finally, the committee considered the suggestion that under-21s should be banned from buying alcohol from supermarkets and off-licenses, but not from pubs and bars. They do not support this: “Such proposals seem to unfairly penalise young people who do drink responsibly. Furthermore, we have seen no evidence to suggest that teenage drinkers cause more problems for the police than those in their early 20s.”