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Brits spend more on drugs and prostitutes than beer and wine

Britons spend more on drugs and prostitutes than on beer and wine, the first official study of money spent on “illegal” activities has found.

The figures were disclosed in data today that showed a 2.2 per cent rise in the amount of money spent by families over the past year as the economy returned to health.

The Office for National Statistics, which tracks changes in spending habits across the country, found miscreants spent an enormous £12.3 billion last year on illegal substances and sexual gratification. This was more than the amount spent on wine and beer in 2013, which was just under £11 billion, according to the ONS data.

The statistics body been forced by the European Union to investigate the amount of money splurged on illegal drugs and prostitution. Today was its final deadline to publicise the findings, which are now included in the national accounts. The EU said such work was necessary to create a fair comparison of different national economies.

David Matthewson, a statistician at the ONS, said: “For a long time we have made adjustments to our calculations to account for smuggling, and some of that would have included alcohol and other substances. But smuggling, of course, is not as commonplace as it once was. This was the first time we have allowed spending on narcotic drugs and prostitution into our calculations for the economy.

“As might be expected, data on this sort of activity is not exactly forthcoming, so we used a number of previous studies which looked at different elements of the equation, from the number of prostitutes in the UK to price at which drugs are bought.”

The ONS estimated that including spending on drugs such as cocaine and heroin in the national accounts would add £6.7 billion a year to spending across the UK. The figure was an estimated based on data covering the period between 1997 and 2013 from various sources, including the Home Office and a study undertaken by the United Nations.

Spending on prostitution was believed to be £4.3 billion a year during this period, with data derived from a 2004 government study and “extrapolated”. The estimate for 2013, taking into account inflation, was £12.3 billion.

The ONS Consumer Trends publication showed that household spending had risen by 0.6 per cent, or £1.5 billion, over the three months between April and June, with families spending more on days out, restaurant meals and other recreation in particular. The economy grew by 0.9pc during the period, the ONS said.

*This article has been amended from a previous version, which contained an incorrect comparison.

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