Many of my colleagues represent constituencies where alcohol creates frequent and recurring problems for local communities. Ealing and Acton certainly has its fair share of drink issues - often centred on young people getting seriously drunk and indulging in anti-social behaviour ranging from noise, to property damage and violence.
I’m in favour of tougher enforcement and am encouraged by new measures like the late night levy in the Government’s Alcohol Strategy. I also think we need to revisit some of our local planning rules on late night licensing and supermarket opening hours, because much of the anti-social behaviour that blights neighbourhoods and town centres is fuelled by easy access to liquor, late at night.
I am not at all clear, though, that the introduction of minimum pricing of alcohol units is going to do the trick. I can see the attraction - curbing the purchase of alcohol by making it more expensive sounds easy. But do we really believe that upping the price of a can of lager or a bottle of cheap cider will deter a gang of people who are out late at night with the sole intention of getting bladdered? Surely they’ll just find other ways around this? The facts bear this out. Minimum pricing advocates look to a University of Sheffield report to back up their claims. According to its claims, the 6% fall in consumption between 2004 and 2008 should have resulted in around 20,000 fewer alcohol-related admissions in 2008 alone. In fact, official figures show a rise in admissions of over 300,000 in that period.