Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Alcohol Strategy

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 7th February 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sarah Wollaston Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes 11:00 am, 7th February 2012

There is a simple reply to that question—it would not work. We have seen that clearly from the efforts at prohibition in the States. I myself enjoy a drink, as I am sure do most Members present. Everyone might like a drink, but nobody likes a drunk, and that is what this is about. It is not about stopping people drinking, but about asking at what point the state should step in to address the real harm. There is a balance to be achieved. I am not suggesting for one moment that my proposals will stop people drinking, and I would not want them to do so. I just want to do something about 22,000 people dying every year in this country.

I propose that we act on price and address availability, marketing, education and labelling, and that we take action on offending behaviour. We should also change the drink-drive limit. Crucially, if we are to put all those measures in place, we also need to help people who already have a problem, which means better screening and treatment in the health service for hazardous, harmful and dependent drinkers. It is also time to send a clear message that we have had enough of drunken antisocial behaviour and violent crime.

On availability—I will try to be brief, because I know that lots of Members want to speak—I welcome the consultation on dealing with the problem of late-night drinking. It is absolutely right that communities should have a greater say in the licensing hours, and I welcome the return from 3 am back to midnight and the idea that those who supply late-night alcohol should contribute to the clean-up cost. Will the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend Anne Milton go further and address whether supermarkets should face greater penalties? The problem for late-night premises and clubs is that their customers are already drunk when they arrive, having pre-loaded on very cheap alcohol. It is crucial that supermarkets should contribute to the clean-up cost.

On marketing, we currently spend £800 million a year on alcohol marketing, which dwarfs the budget given to the Drinkaware Trust, which is industry controlled. There is clear evidence that marketing encourages not only drinking earlier, but children to drink more when they do. Although it is encouraging that fewer children overall are drinking, we should still remember that, after the Isle of Man and Denmark, we are the country with the highest levels of binge drinking and drunkenness in our schoolchildren. The problem is that the current controls are complex and easily circumvented. There is an off-the-peg solution that is compatible with European Union law, namely to introduce similar measures to those in France under the Loi Évin. Rather than having a set of complicated measures saying what we cannot do, we would set out clearly where alcohol can be marketed and everything else would not be allowed. If we want to protect children, why do we allow alcohol advertising before screenings of 15-cetificate films? It is also confusing that, while we say that alcohol cannot be associated with youth culture or sporting success, we allow alcohol-related sponsorship of the FA cup and events such as T in the park. We need to protect children.