Drink plans are a lost opportunity

Government plans claiming to ensure the worst cases of cheap alcohol will be banned from sale will not work and represent a lost opportunity.

Rather than introduce an order where a licensing condition banning the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus vat as the Government plans, it would have been far better to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol.

We know people living in our region are concerned about anti-social behaviour and that officers spend a large amount of time dealing with alcohol related crime and disorder.

The consumption of cheap, strong alcohol is directly linked to crime and disorder and in a survey of front line police officers in the North East, almost 100 per cent said they couldn’t remember the last time they were called to a domestic abuse incident where alcohol wasn’t involved.

Research has shown that by introducing a minimum price, alcohol related crimes would reduce by thousands each year not only improving public safety and confidence but also reducing the health impacts of alcohol. At the same time the minimum unit price would not affect local pub prices and would have a marginal impact on those drinking within the recommended guidelines.

When the new Government order was discussed earlier this week in the House of Lords, members were told that while the minimum unit pricing was still under consideration, it would not be taken forward at the present time.

The House was told that through the alcohol strategy, the Government was promoting a proportionate and targeted response to reducing both the costs and problems caused to society by irresponsible and excessive drinking without disproportionately affecting responsible drinkers.

These include the recently launched local alcohol action area scheme which is said to have given support to cutting alcohol-related crime and disorder and the impact on people’s health.

While we are pleased the minimum unit pricing is still under consideration and that the Government is taking steps to alleviate the problems caused by alcohol, this really is an opportunity lost.

We understand the minimum unit price would not provide the ‘magic’ answer but it would increase the price of the strongest, cheapest drinks, most often consumed by heavy drinkers and young people.

Not only would this help protect some of the most vulnerable groups in our region but would also help save lives and cut crime in the North East.

Vera Baird,

Police and Crime Commissioner