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Alcohol Consumption (Pregnancy)

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

6. What assessment his Department has made of harm caused to babies by alcohol consumed during pregnancy; and if he will make a statement. (144341)

Foetal alcohol syndrome is a severe, lifelong condition caused by heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder is usually less severe. There is a consensus, however, that FASD is more widespread.

I thank the hon. Lady for her answer and for her recent letter to me on this subject. She will be aware of the Medical Research Council’s research suggesting that 7,000 babies are born every year suffering from serious genetic and permanent damage. Just as worrying, however, is that even moderate consumption can have an impact on IQ. In America, all drinks containers must have the following written on them:

“According to the surgeon general, women should not drink alcohol beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.”

When will the Government insist that all drinks containers in Britain carry the same slogan?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. Our advice is clear and the chief medical officer continues to give this advice: women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not drink alcohol. If they feel that they must drink it, they should drink one or two units once or twice a week, at the very most. Our advice is clear, but he makes a good point, and I am happy to discuss it with him further.

Recent NHS figures show that £2.7 billion was spent on alcohol-related illnesses. Will the Minister consider a campaign across the whole of the United Kingdom, including the Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland as a region, to combat the issue of drinking during pregnancy?

That is a very good point. The overconsumption of alcohol, whether by a pregnant woman or not, greatly concerns the Government, and that is one reason we want to introduce a minimum unit price of 45p. It was a good point well made, and I am always happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter further.