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Alcoholic Drinks: Misuse

Volume 464: debated on Friday 19 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to prevent alcohol abuse in England. (159459)

The Government continues to show a sustained determination to tackle the harms caused by alcohol misuse.

The “Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England”, which was published in 2004, was the first cross-Government strategy to prevent any further increase in alcohol-related harms in England. The 2004 Strategy has been extremely successful. It has put in place the mechanisms needed to deliver the Government’s objective of reducing alcohol-related harms and has made considerable progress across a range of issues—new police and licensing powers, the new voluntary alcohol labelling scheme and revised advice to women about alcohol and pregnancy, effective and popular advertising campaigns (e.g. ‘Know Your Limits’, ‘Think!’), creation of the Drinkaware Trust and improving alcohol treatment services, for example, the publication of suite of guidance materials, such as the “Programme of Improvement and Models of Care for Alcohol Misuse”.

We are already beginning to see the benefits of this: reductions in crime and city centre violence and early signs of an end to the continued increase in levels of alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, the review of the 2004 Strategy, which the Government was committed to undertaking this year, identified more that the Government can and needs to do.

The Government’s renewed alcohol strategy,” Safe. Sensible. Social.—the next steps in the National Alcohol Strategy”, published in June, sets out the long-term objective, to minimise the health harms, violence and antisocial behaviour associated with alcohol, while ensuring that people are able to enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly.

The Government plans to achieve this by seeking to:

-ensure the laws and licensing powers we have introduced to tackle alcohol fuelled crime and disorder, protect young people and bear down on irresponsibly managed premises, are being used widely and effectively;

-sharpen our focus on the minority of drinkers who cause or experience the most harm to themselves, their communities and their families. These are:

-18-24 year old binge drinkers,

-young people under 18 who drink alcohol,

-Harmful drinkers; and

-To shape an environment which actively promotes sensible drinking, for example through a £10 million investment in a sustained information and communications campaign to challenge public tolerance of drunkenness and drinking that causes harm to health and to raise the public's knowledge of units of alcohol and ensure that everyone has the information they need to estimate how much they really do drink..

In addition, the Government are committed to commissioning an independent national review of evidence on the relationship between alcohol price, promotion and harm and, following public consultation, to consider the need for regulatory change in the future, if necessary. Reviews will also take place on the effectiveness of the alcohol industry’s social responsibility standards in contributing to a reduction in alcohol harm, as well as on the effectiveness of the industry’s social responsibility standards in contributing to a reduction in alcohol harm.

The Government have also announced in their Comprehensive Spending Review, published on 9 October, a Home Office public service agreement target to reduce drug and alcohol harm. This includes a new national indicator to measure change in the rate of hospital admissions for alcohol-attributable conditions, the first ever national commitment to monitor how the national health service is tackling alcohol harms through both intervention and treatment, which will operate from April 2008.

The Government are determined that the steps that are set out in “Safe. Sensible. Social” will shape an environment which will minimise the health harms, violence and antisocial behaviour associated with alcohol, while ensuring that people are able to enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly.