‘(3) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the expected effects on public health of the changes made to the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979 by this Section and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within one year of the passing of this Act.”
This amendment would require the Government to review the impact of the proposed changes to alcohol liquor duties on public health.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. The amendment is quite simple and would require the Government to review the impact of alcohol duties on public health. It should come as no surprise, given that the SNP has long called for duty to reflect content, but we do not have the powers in Scotland to do that. Instead, we have to rely once again on the Westminster system in that regard. That is a real pity, because where we have powers in Scotland in relation to public health and alcohol, we have made great strides. For instance, we have seen the banning of irresponsible promotions and the lowering of the drink-drive limit. We ended multi-buy discounts, something that was certainly contentious at the time. As a young student, I was not overjoyed about the fact that I could not buy three crates of Tennent’s for £20. None the less, it was an important measure that no doubt changed the behaviour of many people, including myself at that time.
Of course, we have seen the overwhelming success of minimum unit pricing in Scotland. That was, again, an extremely contentious measure at the time, whereby we placed a 50p-per-unit charge on units of alcohol. The cumulative effect of all those measures has seen something that we all wanted to see in Scotland, where we have a difficult relationship with alcohol—one that was challenging to confirm but that we needed to confirm. We saw off-duty sales fall by 3.6% in the first year since minimum unit pricing was introduced. In England and Wales during the same period, off-duty sales increased by 3.2%. That is a very telling figure.
When I first came to Parliament, one of the very first debates that I took part in was in Westminster Hall. I cannot remember which hon. Member secured the debate, but it was about alcohol duty. I think the purpose of the debate was to galvanise hon. Members to stop the Government increasing alcohol duty and, hopefully, to reduce it. There was extreme passion in that Chamber and there were a lot of hon. Members present—more than are often seen debating any given matter in the main Chamber. There was a lot of passion about pints, but we cannot be passionate about pints without also having passion for public health and the consequences of the decisions being made. The stark reality is that the two are inextricably linked, and the UK Government need to be mindful of that fact. Supporting the amendment would be a good, positive first step on that journey to a more sensible approach that takes into account public health.
In that Westminster Hall debate, in which numerous Government Members spoke, not a single person mentioned public health, despite the consequences of alcohol in our communities. That is not good enough.