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Alcohol Consumption Guidelines

Volume 615: debated on Tuesday 11 October 2016

3. If he will publish the full scientific evidential basis for his Department’s alcohol consumption guidelines; and what representations he has received on those guidelines. (906491)

The scientific evidence for the UK chief medical officer’s low-risk alcohol guidelines is available on the website. The guidelines were published in August, following testing through public consultation to ensure that the advice is as clear and usable as possible. We received 1,019 responses to the consultation.

There is an overwhelming scientific evidence base that shows the health benefits of moderate drinking—something to which I can attest. Does the Minister not agree that the chief medical officer should highlight those benefits more?

For many people, drinking alcohol is part of their normal social lives, and we are perfectly clear that these guidelines are advisory. They are in place to help people make informed decisions about how they drink and decide whether they want to take fewer risks with their drinking. They are not designed to label everyone who drinks as a problem drinker or to prevent everyone who wants to drink from drinking, but I point out to the hon. Gentleman that Rochdale has more than double the number of admissions to hospital where alcohol is a factor than the best authorities in England.

Following on from that answer, will the Minister reassure the House that public health guidance given to consumers of alcohol is realistic and will not undermine responsible drinking campaigns, penalise responsible drinkers or damage the vital role that pubs play in our communities?

As I have said, these guidelines are simply intended to be advisory. They are intended to give the best possible information and advice and to put all the evidence in one place so that people can make the best possible decisions with their drinking.

Campaigners on alcohol abuse have acknowledged the importance of the pub, which is a controlled sociable environment in which to enjoy a drink compared with the unrestricted supermarkets. Will the Minister have a word with her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government who continue to preside over a system in which profitable wanted pubs are demolished and in which supermarkets are built on the site against the wishes of local communities?

The hon. Gentleman plays a very important role as chair of the all-party save the pub group and has been a dogged campaigner for the pub. We are very clear that social drinking is not the target of these low-risk guidelines. I am happy to meet and discuss this issue with my DCLG colleagues.

Sadly, very few people are aware of the link between alcohol consumption and obesity and of the long-term impacts of life-limiting diseases—not just cirrhosis. To ensure that the impact of obesity is integral to the alcohol consumption guidelines, will the Minister, on World Obesity Day, put tackling both adult and childhood obesity even higher up the Department’s agenda?

The hon. Lady is right to raise the hidden risks of alcohol consumption, which is exactly why a widespread analysis of the evidence was conducted through this guideline exercise. She is right to say that obesity should be a top priority for the Government. We will analyse her question and look into it.