HC Deb 16 December 2002 vol 396 cc527-8
14. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton)

What plans she has to tackle antisocial behaviour associated with drinking alcohol. [85583]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary intends to present a Bill on measures to combat antisocial behaviour during this Session, but as the House is aware, we have also recently introduced into the House of Lords a Licensing Bill containing a number of measures designed to tackle alcohol-related and antisocial behaviour. That includes extending the powers of the police to close noisy or disorderly premises and reinforcing and strengthening laws on the purchase and consumption of alcohol by young people under 18.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's campaign in her constituency on alcohol consumption by children.

Linda Gilroy

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and welcome the forthcoming measures in the new Bill. She will be aware that her colleagues in the Department of Health have an alcohol harm reduction strategy out to consultation. Will she undertake to consider the early lessons that may emerge in January, before the Bill comes to the House of Commons?

Tessa Jowell

In tackling under-age drinking and the aspects of antisocial behaviour that concern my hon. Friend and, I suspect, the whole House, it will of course be important to consider the conclusions drawn from the work undertaken by the Department of Health with the Prime Minister's strategy unit and to ensure that the Licensing Bill takes them into account. I am also sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will want to bear those issues in mind in considering the detailed drafting of the Bill on antisocial behaviour.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster)

The Licensing Bill is currently going through the House of Lords. How does the Secretary of State think that the Government's plan to stamp out antisocial drinking is compatible with the idea of 24-hour licensing, which will give a free rein to anyone who wishes to drink in parts of my constituency such as Soho and Covent Garden that are beset by drunken incidents in the early hours of the morning, especially on Saturdays and Sundays?

Tessa Jowell

The Government certainly sympathise with the hon. Gentleman on the second point, and we are considering the adequacy of measures to deal with the problem. One reason for our introduction of flexible opening hours for pubs, however, is the current detrimental effect on law and order caused by the presence of large numbers of people on the streets at the same time. Indeed, all the evidence shows that staggered opening hours reduce the number of people staggering out of the pubs.