HL Deb 20 December 2004 vol 667 cc1532-4

3 p.m.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

What indices they intend to use to measure the effects on crime and disorder of the Licensing Act 2003.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey)

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will know from the exchanges of correspondence we have had on the subject, the full extent of our review of the Licensing Act 2003 has yet to be determined. We are considering a number of views before making a final decision on the most appropriate way to do this. However, we have already added additional questions to the British Crime Survey on experiences and attitudes towards visiting town and city centres at night as a baseline for our research.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, would not the noble Lord acknowledge that the British Crime Survey is useless for the purposes of distinguishing areas of high concentration of late-night drinking and others that are relatively free of the problem? Given that the police and ambulance services already collect their own internal statistics on the location of crimes and accidents arising from alcohol, why do not the Government simply ask them to publish those figures so that a whole year's baseline figures will be available when the Act comes into force in August 2005?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I have never said that the British Crime Survey would be the only method we would use to research the impact of the Licensing Act 2003. The three methods to which the noble Lord referred can certainly be considered in addition. I would be a little nervous about suggesting additional data collection at accident and emergency centres, but the other two suggestions can be considered as part of the range of information that we need.

Baroness Gale

My Lords, is the Minister aware of a experiment that took place last Friday evening in Cardiff city centre where a field hospital was set up and paramedics were able to deal with minor injuries caused by drunken people? Will the Minister look at the report and consider any further measures the Government can take in educating young people on the dangers of drink and in encouraging clubs and pubs to stop offering cut-price drinks, which only encourages greater consumption?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I have been told briefly about the field hospital to which my noble friend refers and have asked for further information about it.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

My Lords, does there exist in this field an alliance of charitable organisations similar to that which existed for dealing with homelessness and which was then available for government at local or national level to treat with?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that is an interesting suggesting. I do not know of an alliance of organisations which would be willing to give evidence, but the group composed of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Home Office and the Department of Health, which are looking into ways of evaluating and reviewing the Licensing Act, would be pleased to hear from any voluntary organisations which wish to contribute their views.

Lord Clement-Jones

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Avebury raised an important point in respect of the collection of data about the operation of the Licensing Act. Is it not vital that local authorities know about the impact of the Act and whether to withhold licences or planning consents in their localities? Does not the timidity on the part of the DCMS in deciding on the indicators demonstrate the consistency in government between that department and the Home Office?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I can agree with the first part of the noble Lord's question but, rather obviously, not with the second. A review is being carried out between the Home Office, the DCMS and the Department of Health. A range of activities, including national measures, a process evaluation of the new Licensing Act, local area comparisons on levels of crime, disorder and public nuisance, and the establishment of evidence of good practice which can be used by local authorities is in preparation. I suggest that if the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Clement-Jones, table a Written Question towards, for example, the end of January I could answer in the greater detail necessary to set out the whole range of activities which we are undertaking.

Baroness Buscombe

My Lords, whatever happened to the National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy of which the Government were so proud? Is it a failure?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the review I mentioned was prompted by the National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy and it is because of that strategy that we take these issues so seriously.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, when will the Government announce how they will implement the pledge given by the noble Lord when we debated these matters earlier this year, saying that local authorities' costs in implementing the Licensing Act should be met centrally? Why have they not yet had an answer? Why cannot they be told how it will be done?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that question does not arise from the Question on the Order Paper, but the noble Lord knows that the consultation process is only just being completed.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno

My Lords, will the Minister, when bringing forward the review, consider that alcohol harm costs £20 billion a year in England and Wales and £7.3 billion because of crime and disorder?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I do not know the origin of those figures, but if the noble Lord would care to write to me about them, I will ensure that they are considered as part of the review which we are undertaking.

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