Alcohol Guidelines Review July 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the Alcohol Guidelines Review and the proposed new UK alcohol guidelines. I am aware there are strongly held views on both sides about this issue.

I appreciate that pubs are a cherished British institution that are often at the heart of our community life. Their contribution is not only felt by local communities but by our economy as a whole in terms of jobs, trade and tax revenues.

However, I am concerned that some people are still regularly drinking more than is healthy and I believe there is a need to tackle the problems associated with excessive drinking.

As I am sure you are aware, the new precautionary low risk guidance has been developed by the Department of Health and follows a review by two expert groups in health and behaviour commissioned in 2012 by the UK's Chief Medical Officers.

The groups found that, since the previous guidelines were published in 1995, there is now 'significant new, good quality evidence' regarding the effects of alcohol on a person's health, and 'stronger evidence has emerged that the risk of a range of cancers, especially breast cancer, increases directly in line with consumption of any amount of alcohol'.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), alcohol is one of the biggest avoidable risks for disease and death and costs the NHS around £3.5 billion per year, with the annual cost to society in England around £21 billion. NICE also state that in 2010-2011, alcohol misuse led to 1.2 million hospital admissions and 15,000 deaths.

Excessive drinking is associated with a wide range of chronic diseases including liver disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as with crime and disorder. I believe we need to do more to inform the public about making healthier choices. I also believe the Government should set out how it intends to support the NHS and local authorities in reducing alcohol abuse.

The Government has said that the new alcohol guidelines will help people understand how to keep health risks from alcohol consumption low and that it wants the guidelines to help people at all stages of life to make informed choices about their drinking. As you are aware, the Government recently consulted on the new guidelines. The Government is currently analysing feedback and says it will consider any next steps once this has been completed.

I await the Government's response to the consultation on the proposed new guidelines and I hope the Government will consider all responses received, including the concerns that have been raised by organisations such as the British Beer and Pub Association.

Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I can assure you I will continue to follow this issue closely and bear in mind the points you raise.