I welcome some of Daniel Kawczynski’s message on alcohol.(Star letters 31 Dec.) It is good to see that he does not follow Andrew Lansley, the Tory Health spokesman, who denies that alcohol consumption is price sensitive. There is good evidence that increasing the price of alcoholic drinks does reduce both consumption and the damage caused by alcohol. Unfortunately, politicians are reluctant to upset their voters, so Mr Kawczynski is content to criticise young people, who probably won’t vote for him, but is silent on the damage caused by binge drinking more widely. Much as we might like to pretend that this is a problem limited only to alcopop drinkers, that is simply not the case.
As a doctor working in casualty, I have seen the damage caused by alcohol through accidents. As a GP I have seen the damage done to peoples lives, and relationships. Today we have heard that Britain’s rising alcohol addiction could cripple the NHS. When I recently spent a night out with our local police virtually all their work was related to alcohol.
Both Patricia Hewitt for the Labour Party and George Osborne for the Conservatives want to increase tax on alcopops. The British Medical Association has a wider set of proposals, which amongst other things set a minimum price per unit for all alcoholic drinks. This policy would not increase revenue for the government: it is not a tax. Nor would it affect most normal drinkers, but it would raise the price of the cheapest forms of alcohol. It would help pubs and restaurants whose prices are already higher than these minimum prices and reduce the tendency for binge drinking and drinking on the streets, which is largely fuelled by cheap alcohol from supermarkets. This policy is promoted by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.
Dr Charles West
Parliamentary Candidate: Shrewsbury and Atcham Liberal Democrats
3 Bellstone, Shrewsbury SY1 1HU
tel: 07775 800744