Weekly Parliamentary Briefing

News from 24th - 28th March
Dear Directors of Public Health,

The end of the financial year means that the economy has dominated Parliament, and as we saw last week, the budget delivered set-backs to efforts to reduce alcohol-related harms and even managed to erode the efficaciousness of the Government’s own weak ‘below-cost sales’ ban! In and around Parliament this week two reports have been published of varying degrees of interest – the CMOs Annual Report and the All Party Hepatology Group’s Liver Report.

Inside the Palace of Westminster we have heard debates concentrate and mention in passing, inter alia, drinking whilst pregnant, motorway pubs, Government meetings with industry, calorie labelling and minimum unit pricing.

There is also an interesting debate on the below-cost ban policy, which was rightly shredded in the Lords.

If you have any further questions please contact us:

Proposed offence of assaulting a worker selling alcohol
The Opposition introduced a clause into the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is winding its way through Parliament’s byzantine procedures. The clause was voted down in committee, but the debate highlighted that there are 300 violent assaults every day.
Read more.
Drinking while pregnant guidelines
Lord Taylor of Warwick (Ind.) asked what the Government is doing to educate pregnant women about the dangers of drinking. Health Minister in the Lords, Earl Howe, stated that Start4Life provides advice; PHE recently launched a leaflet; NICE has guidelines; and, Government is committed to improving labels through the Responsibility Deal – 80% of labels should be compliant as of the end 2013 – a survey is currently being carried out to see if industry have lived up to the rather low standards set by their ‘Deal’.
Read more.
Licensing motorway service areas (MSAs)
Richard Burden MP (Con) tabled a question for the Home Office regarding the new Weatherspoon’s at an M40 service area. The Minister responded that not all MSAs are subject to the blanket ban, issued by the Department of Transport many years ago (most MSAs are on Government-owned land and subject to a blanket ban on issuing licences; MSAs on private land come under the preview of their local licensing authority). The Minister did point out that a relaxation of this ban was under active consideration.
Read more.
Who has the DoH been meeting?
Local MP and Shadow Health Minister Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree, Lab) requested information regarding DoH meetings with various industry lobby groups and companies. Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP (Battersea, Con) confirmed that the DoH had met with all but one of the organisations listed. A link was also provided in the name of transparency.
Read more.

Stillbirths and infant mortality debate
Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Alcohol Misuse Tracy Crouch MP (Chatham & Aylesford, Con) secured this thoughtful debate which touched on foetal alcohol syndrome and the dangers of consuming alcohol whilst pregnant.
Read more.
MUP support and former Minister comes clean
DUP health spokesman and alcohol champion Jim Shannon MP (Strangford) again called for the introduction of MUP, and criticised the Government for cutting the beer duty. Former Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne MP (Taunton Deane, Lib Dem), whom you will recall killed-off Government proposals for minimum unit pricing last July, finally spoke out against MUP in non-amphigoric Government-speak, and laid his personal liberty viewpoint out – confirming what we already suspected, and perhaps the sizable cider lobby in his native West Country!
Read more.
Counterfeit alcohol
Kerry McCarthy MP (Bristol East, Lab) asked what the DoH is doing about this issue. The Public Health Minister stated that the Food Standards Agency works with LAs on this, and provides financial and advisory resources. Kerry McCarthy also asked what the risks to public health of counterfeit alcohol are – the response was sparse.
Read more.
Treasury meetings with industry
Chair of the All Party Save the Pub Group Greg Mulholland MP (Leeds North West, Lib Dem) quizzed the Treasury as to whether there had been meetings with various industry groups. The Treasury Minister shared a link in the name of transparency.
Read more.
Health & Wellbeing Board commissioning alcohol services
Shadow Home Office Minister Diana Johnson MP (Kingston upon Hull North, Lab) asked what information PHE holds on current and future spending on alcohol treatment services by health and wellbeing boards. The Public Health Minister stated that this was an important area for PHE and that there will be a review of LA’s commissioning intentions conducted by PHE with ADPH.
Read more.
Calorie labelling
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab) asked the Government for an update on progress by industry to put calorie labelling on 80% of products. Earl Howe (Con), health minister in the Lords, stated that there was no commitment to provide calorie information, only units and a warning about drinking whilst pregnant – calorie labelling is in the EU’s remit apparently!
Read more.
Ban on below-cost sales and NI MUP
Dr William McCrea MP (South Antrim, DUP) wanted to know what the Government is doing to introduce its below-cost ban and what discussions it has had with the Northern Irish Assembly about introducing a minimum unit price into the province. Norman Baker MP (Lewes, Lib Dem) recanted the standard Government line on MUP (“active consideration” etc) and some other evasive answers.
Do you want to read more?
New Mandatory Licensing Condition – Below-cost ban
The order was moved to introduce the Government’s below-cost ban on sales of alcohol (VAT + duty). This will reduce consumption by a mere 0.04%, save 14 lives and reduce hospital admissions by 500 – compared to an MUP of 50p which will reduce consumption by 2.5%, save 960 lives and reduce hospital admissions by 35,100.
The debate in the Lords around this order contained some very well informed and scathing comments on the Government’s utterly anemic policy, too numerous to provide here, so I would encourage you to read more here.

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