Alcohol

Part of Supplementary Estimates 2009-10 — Department of Health – in the House of Commons at 2:53 pm on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Stephen Hesford Stephen Hesford Labour, Wirral West 2:53 pm, 10th March 2010

I do not want to gainsay that, but the Irish experience should also be considered. A ban was introduced there, and, I think, in Spain as well. There were other precedents, but I take the hon. Gentleman's point.

I have said that alcohol is not the dangerous substance that tobacco is, but, as the Health Committee heard, the death rate from tobacco-related illness was 120,000 a year when the Government decided to take action to ban the advertising of tobacco products. The death rate from alcohol-related diseases is now about 40,000. Would the tipping point be 80,000 or 100,000? Is it only at that point that the Government would want to act? I would like to ask the House and the Minister to reflect, as we might prefer action sooner than that-if not quite to nip the problem in the bud, certainly to head off the problem and stop it getting worse. It is a sort of precautionary principle. It seems to me that 40,000 deaths a year are too many, in view of the tragedy that this means for the people involved and their families. I thus remind the Minister that we are now at the point where action needs to be taken.

There are comparator countries. Pete Wishart has just mentioned the Scottish experience, and France is also interesting. As I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford mentioned in passing, the advertising of alcohol on television and in the cinema is banned in France. That provides a way forward, sending an absolutely clear cultural message to anyone susceptible to that advertising and to the drinks industry.

Finally, I want to deal with minimum pricing. It seems indisputable that minimum pricing has to be the way forward. The chief medical officer has recommended it and I know that the Minister would not readily want to reject such clear advice from such a respected source.