Thursday 14 August 2014

MPs take the soft option

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse has come out with a document calling on all political parties to commit themselves to 10 measures to minimise alcohol-related harm in the UK. Such documents have no formal standing and merely represent the views of the members of the group, which itself has no formal status, but is simply a collection of politicians who have an interest in the topic. Alcohol Concern, the fake, publicly-funded charity, also has its name prominently displayed on the cover. This publication is intended to influence the content of party manifestos for next year's general election.

I've reproduced the exact wording of the recommendations below but there is nothing new here, particularly the calls for minimum pricing, strengthening regulation of alcohol marketing, health warnings on labels, and lowering the drink-driving limit (the links are to older posts on the subject concerned).

As I've previously written on some of the individual recommendations, I won't cover old ground again, but it is worth noting that it has just been announced that drink-drive deaths are at their lowest since records began, under-age drinking is also at its lowest since records began and alcohol consumption in general is at its lowest level for decades. So how do those facts, based on government statements, sit with the report's assertion that "alcohol abuse has become a national pandemic and needs to be treated as such"? It's sounding more like a bunch of busybodies with an agenda rather than a sober assessment of the situation. Further evidence of this is in the introduction which cheerily says: "We want to be clear that this manifesto is not designed to end or curtail people’s enjoyment of alcohol". When they have to make that point clear, I tend to assume that that is precisely what they have in mind.

With MPs paid £66,000 per year, and ministers more than £100,000, I do wonder why our legislators are wasting time doing no more than rehashing familiar recommendations that have previously been published many times over the years. Although, to be fair, it often seems that repeating themselves is the stock-in-trade of our MPs.

In contrast, just 11 MPs (1.7% of the total) bothered to turn up on 17 July for a debate about the provision of education for children with autism. Such a debate would require concentration, knowledge and thought, whereas cobbling together a report consisting of ideas that have frequently been regurgitated in the past is probably a fairly effortless way of passing time while apparently doing something worthy. I wonder whether the legislative busybodies adjourned to one of the many subsidised Palace of Westminster bars when their onerous task was complete?

The recommendations are:
  1. Make reducing alcohol harms the responsibility of a single government minister with clear accountability. 
  2. Introduce a minimum unit price for alcoholic drinks. 
  3. Introduce public health as a fifth licensing objective, enabling local authorities to make licensing decisions based on local population health need and the density of existing outlets. 
  4. Strengthen regulation of alcohol marketing to protect children and young people. 
  5. Increase funding for treatment and raise access levels from 6% to 15% of problem drinkers. 
  6. Commissioners should prioritise the delivery of identification and brief advice identification and brief advice should be delivered in a wide range of different settings including health care, involving GPs routinely asking questions, and in-workplace programmes. 
  7. Include a health warning on all alcohol labels and deliver a government-funded national public awareness campaign on alcohol-related health issues. 
  8. For all social workers, midwives and healthcare professionals, introduce mandatory training on parental substance misuse, foetal alcohol syndrome disorder and alcohol-related domestic violence. 
  9. Reduce the blood alcohol limit for driving in England and Wales to 50mg/100ml, starting with drivers under the age of 21. 
  10. Introduce the widespread use of sobriety orders to break the cycle of alcohol and crime, antisocial behaviour and domestic violence.


  1. The point that this is a group of self-appointed busybodies with no official status is well worth making.

  2. Interesting information from Dick Puddlecote
    "Even more interesting is the authorship of the APPG 'manifesto'. Exactly as is the case with the APPG on smoking which is administered by government sock puppet ASH, the secretariat for the APPG on alcohol misuse is Alcohol Concern.
    This report was researched by Alcohol Concern in their APPG secretariat role. The APPG secretariat and the printing costs for this report are financially supported by Lundbeck Ltd.
    And who are Lundbeck Ltd, you ask? Why, they're a pharmaceutical company which also paid for Alcohol Concern's alcohol harm map, and Alcohol Concern's report on 'The case for better access to treatment for alcohol dependence'. Oh yeah, and they sell alcohol dependency drugs in the UK and all over Europe, but I'm sure that's just coincidence."

  3. time to buy shares in a company that can print full colour pictures of diseased livers on pint pots, me thinks. Better dividend potential than companies that have pubs.

  4. Yes, that is interesting info, Zopher.

    CL: you're probably right.

  5. Yes, cracking stuff and points well worth reminding anyone. Particularly MPs!


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