§ Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what specific steps he intends to take during the next three years to reduce the level of alcohol abuse.
§ Mr. John Patten
The Government set out their general approach to the problems caused by misuse of alcohol in the discussion document "Drinking Sensibly" published in 1981. This document recognised that attempts to influence the minority who misuse alcohol must, if they are to be realistic, respect the freedom of the majority who use alcohol responsibly. The document concluded that the reduction of alcohol misuse and the harm it causes requires a range of action by central and local government, voluntary and community bodies, the health professions and institutions, business—including the drinks trade—and trade unions.
Within this framework the Department, in conjunction with other bodies such as the Health Education Council, continues to seek better information through surveys and research about the incidence and causes of problem drinking; to encourage health education to lead to healthier life styles, and earlier identification and help for the problem drinker at work; to assist statutory and voluntary action in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation; to influence professional education and to sponsor training initiatives, to alert and equip service providers to intervene earlier, and more effectively, in problem drinking in the course of their everyday work. These activities will be pursued throughout the next three years.
The Department also gives substantial grant aid to Alcohol Concern, the National Agency on Alcohol Misuse, which was formally established in 1984. I understand that this organisation is likely to take on an increasing role in the fields of prevention, training and in improving the network of local voluntary agencies and their collaboration with statutory agencies.