Cheap booze ban 'does not go far enough'
HALF of all violent crime in Devon last year was alcohol-related and so 'completely avoidable', MPs have heard at Westminster.
The extent of the booze-fuelled violence totalling nearly 5,000 incidents was highlighted as concerns were raised with ministers that moves to ban the sale of booze below cost price did not go far enough in dealing with the problem.
But the Government said the step is an 'initial package', and there would be further measures aimed at tackling the issue.
It comes after ministers unveiled watered-down plans to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price, which critics said gives a 'green light for supermarkets to keep selling booze at pocket-money prices'.
It was promised as part of efforts to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder which costs the taxpayer up to £13billion each year.
But the much-touted move will see cost price defined as just duty plus VAT and will have little if any impact on cut-price supermarket deals, campaigners said.
They point out the ban threshold did not include the cost of alcohol production.
A can of lager will cost at least 38p and a litre of vodka at least £10.71 under the move.
Challenging the Minister in the commons, Tory MP for Totnes Dr Sarah Wollaston, who sits on the Commons Health Committee, said: "Last year, nearly half all violent crime in Devon was alcohol-related. That represents 4,568 instances of completely avoidable violence.
"I welcome the introduction of a ban on below-cost sales of alcohol as a first step, but does the Minister share my fear that, because it involves only VAT plus duty, it will not go far enough in tackling this serious problem? What other measures will be introduced to tackle alcohol-related crime?"
Responding, Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire said Dr Wollaston was right to highlight the link between alcohol and levels of crime.
He said: "In fact, 50 per cent of violent incidents are associated with alcohol. Our proposal to ban below-cost sales on the basis of duty plus VAT constitutes an initial package.
"We will introduce further measures to deal with licensing and other issues involving problem pubs and other alcohol outlets, and also with problem practices. That is precisely what the duty plus VAT element is about."
He added: "We will continue to monitor this complex area of policy. In particular, we will consider the rate of duty in the context of super-strength lagers, which have been associated with problematic behaviour."