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Alcohol

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 29 January 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, and I are today announcing a 12-week consultation on proposed guidance, advice and information on alcohol consumption by children and young people. This consultation is on two documents that are aimed at reaching all parents, children and young people under 18 as well as health, education and children’s services professionals: the first is new guidance by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people; the second contains the Government's initial ideas for the supporting advice and information for parents and young people in the light of the independent medical guidance.

The number of young people who drink is decreasing, but those who do drink are drinking more, more often and at a younger age. Young people who drink regularly are more likely to put their health at risk and get into trouble by getting involved in anti-social behaviour or dropping out of school. We also know that there is a strong link between young people’s drinking and unprotected sex, which can lead to unplanned pregnancies.

We want to reduce the damage that young people, families and the community experience as a result of youth drinking. That is why we launched the youth alcohol action plan in June 2008 containing firm proposals to tackle the problems of young people drinking in public places and to work in partnership with the alcohol retail industry to continue to tackle instances of underage sales. In the youth alcohol action plan, we said that we would ask the Chief Medical Officer to produce clear health guidance in order to help young people to make sensible decisions about drinking, and to support parents to protect their children from the harms associated with early alcohol use. This work has been done and I am grateful to the Chief Medical Officer for producing his guidance, on which our advice and information for parents and young people will be based.

This England-only consultation will last 12 weeks, finishing on 23 April 2009. It is available at www.dcsf. gov.uk/consultations.