Smith targets TV's glorification of drunkenness

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Indy Politics

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has criticised television programmes that glorify drunkenness and promised to impose a "zero tolerance" approach to anti-social behaviour.

Using her speech to the Labour Party conference to highlight programmes which depict drunken rowdiness, Ms Smith refused to single out any individual shows for criticism but is thought to have in mind programmes such as the 1990s fly-on-the-wall documentary about holiday reps, Ibiza Uncovered.

She told delegates: "Let me be clear. I have zero tolerance of antisocial behaviour, and zero tolerance of its causes," adding: "We should give no time to the idea that just because you're drunk and incapable that somehow lets you off the hook. And incidentally, why celebrate drunken behaviour on our TV screens? Alcohol abuse can cause real damage to real people."

She went on: "I've zero tolerance of homes being broken into or bags being snatched to feed a drug habit – and zero tolerance of people not getting drug treatment when they need it."

In 2003, the charity Alcohol Concern warned that soap characters were seen drinking too often and highlighted scenes in the EastEnders' Queen Vic and Coronation Street's Rovers' Return pubs.

In March, a survey in The Food Magazine found that alcohol featured in 18 per cent of scenes in Channel 4's Hollyoaks, 17 per cent of scenes in Coronation Street and 16 per cent of scenes EastEnders and Emmerdale.

Ms Smith said yesterday that her approach would be "tough enforcement, backed up with prevention and support to help users get their lives together as well as getting their heads together." She also announced that police forces were to get a new £50m fund to pay for technology to help police get new hand-held computers and other equipment to help in the fight against crime.

Highlighting a range of new measures to crack down on gun and knife crime that will come into force on Monday, including new age limits on the sale of knives and air guns, she said: "The new measures which come into force on Monday send the strong signal that weapons on our streets will not be tolerated.

"Tackling gun and knife crime is a top priority for this Government and it is essential that we build on the tools and powers that police already have in order to make people feel safer and more secure in their communities."

Earlier, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said that the United Kingdom needed to have a national debate about what it means to be British. He said: "Most other countries have, through the traumas of revolution, occupation and colonisation have had to argue about what it means to be a citizen.

"We have escaped these traumas, but we've escaped the argument too, so that we have only an instinct but not an articulation about what it means to be British," he said.

He also attacked the Prime Minister's historic royal prerogative powers which allow the Government to act without consulting parliament. He reiterated Gordon Brown's promise for reform, describing the powers as "that ghostly, rattling presence from the divine right of kings which should have no place in a modern democracy."

Mr Straw added: "Power over the Civil Service, power over treaties and power over war and peace will be based not on Henry VIII's or Charles I's idea of power, but on Parliament's and the people's."