Last week the Government took an important first step in curbing cheap sales of alcohol.
By announcing the intention that alcohol should not be sold at below the value of duty and VAT, for the first time a link has been created between price and the harms linked to excessive drinking. The pressures on the police. The disorder in towns and city centres on Friday and Saturday nights. The strain on hard pressed hospitals and healthcare staff.
The ban on these below cost sales isn't intended to set a minimum unit price in a blanket way as some have suggested to drive up the overall cost of alcohol to hit the responsible social drinker as much as the problematic binge boozer. Rather, than taking this blanket approach, it is intended to deal with the irresponsible practices – the deep discounting and loss leading of alcohol without consideration of the consequences for society. But dealing with problem retailers is just one part of a package of measures targeted at the negative aspects of alcohol.
We are reforming the licensing laws to give communities a stronger say over problem premises. We are looking at rates of duty on problem products like super strength lagers linked to binge boozing. We are cutting the bureaucracy and central targets to free up the police's time to deal with the problem drinkers where one too many can lead to the worst kind of drunken behaviour.
This is a complex issue made more difficult by Labour's reckless approach which made Britain's binge boozing problem worse not better. Those statements about delivering a "café culture" ring pretty hollow now.
I think we can create a society where we can all enjoy alcohol. But the no-go zones in some of our communities at the weekend as a consequence of alcohol excess and the violence that it can bring remain a serious social issue. We need a shift in approach and that is what the Government is committed to delivering.