Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Early this year, the UK government announced new guidelines for alcoholic consumption. Men and women are now advised to drink no more that 14 units of alcohol per week - the equivalent of six pints of 4% beer or six glasses of 13% wine. They are designed to 'help people make better choices about their drinking'. This is the first revision of the guidelines since 1995 and is based on what they claim is 'significant new evidence on the effects of alcohol that was not available at the time particularly to do with the risk of cancers'.

Here are some reactions:

It took 40 years between establishing the link between smoking and cancer and banning smoking in public places. In between, advertising was restricted, age limits introduced and health warnings became brutally graphic. But governments wouldn’t ban smoking in public places until public opinion had almost run ahead of the policymakers. Thousands of people will have died prematurely, some of them merely from inhaling other people’s smoke, because of that delay.

'Can – should – alcohol be turned into the new tobacco, a pariah among habitual behaviours? Like banning smoking was at the start of the campaign, it is hard to imagine. Its effects are arguably far more deeply ingrained in human behaviour than smoking. It is probably as old as a belief in a god, this attraction to inebriation. The news that it slightly increases a slight risk is unlikely to turn those who enjoy a couple of pints or glasses of wine most nights into teetotallers....If the government wants us to drink less, it has to play its part too... It means making it harder to do harmful things – more expensive, probably, and less available – and easier to do the right thing. It is not just about nagging us. It means having the courage to confront vested interests too.
Excellent comment from David Lewis:

According to Davies: “Experts say there is no good reason to have separate guidelines for different sexes because a person’s reaction to alcohol is individual.” 

In other words, when it comes to an analysis of the risks associated with dependent behaviours, “one-size-fits-all” guidance is wholly inadequate. I agree. 

The government’s response to this? Impose inanely simplistic “one-size-fits-all” guidelines on a population of 65 million people.

The guidelines conveniently ignore... the results of the largest study ever conducted for alcohol by the American Cancer Society, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which concluded that adults who drink six units per day have lower mortality rates than adults who drink none at all. 

Statistics have been an essential tool during my 45 years as a physical scientist, but it is always important to understand their meaning. The reported statistics from Sally Davies, chief medical officer, are not much help as they stand. 

We know with complete certainty that we all must die eventually of some cause, whatever our lifestyles, and most of us will die by the age of 100. 

These statistics tell us that an extra 20 men per 1,000 will die eventually of bowel cancer, if they drink up to the old guidelines. 

They tell us nothing about how much longer the non-drinkers will live on average, the range of this extra life expectancy, the quality of life during the extra years, or the likely alternative causes of death. 

The lifetime benefit of abstention might be rather small compared to the lifetime pleasure of moderate alcohol consumption. 

Please can we have a more rational analysis of the meaning of the statistics?
Dr John J Birtill
Guisborough, North Yorkshire

Re the debate on safe drinking levels (Guardian) Letters, 15 January). Surely the answer for us British drinkers is to move to Spain where the recommended limit is 35 units a week. Problem solved. I’ll miss my real ale though.
Barry Norman


'Janice Turner writes that "we are the heaviest drinkers in Europe". Alcohol consumption per head in the UK, at 10.2 litres annually, is below the European average and has been falling for a decade. In western Europe consumption is highest in Austria and France, at more than 12.0 litres, while Italians get by on 6.9 litres each.'

Dr John Doherty/Vienna  (The Times 2nd Feb 2016)

A recent British Council survey showed that 27 per cent of people abroad think that British people “drink too much alcohol”. The survey, titled “As Others See Us”, was based on 5,000 individual interviews with young people in Brazil, China, Germany, India and the US.

However, a recent study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on alcohol consumption around the globe shows something different: the UK is not even in the top 20 of the world’s heaviest drinking countries. According to the WHO report, the average global citizen consumes 6.5 litres of pure alcohol every year. Belarus came top of the list at 17.5 litres a head, Moldova came second (16.8) and Lithuania third (15.4).

The UK was 25th on the list with an average consumption of 11.6 litres, which is less than Portugal where they drink 12.9 litres per year, France and Australia where they knock back 12.2 litres a year and Germany where the figure is 11.8 litres.

The “British problem” is not actually the amount of alcohol being consumed but the fact that it is associated with high levels of antisocial and violent activity.

- See more at: http://www.castlecraig.co.uk/blog/12/2014/alcohol-abuse-part-being-british#sthash.bPA2cuQ8.dpuf

'The alcohol industry makes most of its money – an estimated £23.7bn in sales in England alone – from people whose drinking is destroying or risking their health, say experts who accuse the industry of irresponsible pricing and marketing.
While the industry points to the fact that most people in the country are moderate drinkers, 60% of alcohol sales are either to those who are risking their health, or those – labelled harmful drinkers – who are doing themselves potentially lethal damage, figures seen by the Guardian show.
Work by Prof Nick Sheron of Southampton University, co-founder of the Alcohol Health Alliance of more than 40 concerned organisations and colleagues, has established that people who drink dangerously are the industry’s best customers.
“We looked at data from the Health Survey for England and did some calculations on that and we found that in terms of the total alcohol consumed within that survey, 69% was consumed by hazardous and harmful drinkers together,” he said.'



On the 2nd January 2016, Kate Allen reported in the Financial Times that MPs will be able to keep their drinking habits secret after the House of Commons’ Speaker blocked the publication of research about drinking in Westminster’s bars and restaurants of which there are about a dozen.

You may not know that alcohol and food sales in Parliament receive an annual £4m subsidy from the public purse. The cheapest pint is £2.90

The Speaker John Bercow used Section 36 of the Freedom of Information Act, which gives him the power to keep material secret, after an FOI request from the Press Association regarding MPs’ drinking habits.

They received a response that the “disclosure of this information would inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation.”

The Information Commissioner has no power to intervene or analyse the reasons for the Speaker’s decision.

The only information they did disclose was that 18 appointments had been made to the Commons Health and Wellbeing Service over “alcohol dependency” since 2012.

Maurice Frankel is director of the Campaign for the Freedom of Information. He pointed out that this loophole was one “which parliament itself has inserted to protect parliament from scrutiny.”

“On the face of it, there is no reason why they should not reveal what their assessment of any alcohol in parliament is. It is a matter of public interest if any MP’s or peer’s conduct is impaired.”
 In 2014  the five-week  trial of Tory MP Nigel Evans,  the former deputy speaker of the House of Commons, resulted in him being cleared of a number of sex offences. One BBC report said; 'alcohol lubricated every allegation with one complainant describing the 56-year-old as a "high-functioning alcoholic". 

In 2012 Former MP Eric Joyce was forced to resign the Labour whip after being convicted of assaulting Tory MPs in a brawl in the Strangers’ Bar. 

In 2011, the Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, now health select committee chairwoman, warned that some MPs were drinking heavily. 

In 2010 another former MP Mark Reckless, confessed to missing a late-night parliamentary vote because he was drunk.

Back in 2014, another Freedom of Information request from The Times, revealed that 
parliamentary authorities bought nearly 50,000 bottles of House of Commons sauvignon, more than 26,000 of house merlot, more than 33,000 pints of guest ale, more than 8,500 bottles of champagne and 2,100 bottles of  the special brand 'Speaker John Bercow's whisky.

According to an article in the Daily Mail entitled 'Order! Order At The Bar!': 'The scale of boozing in Parliament has been revealed by a bar bill topping £1.4million in just two years. Most of the alcohol will have been drunk by the 650 MPs, 760 peers, and thousands of staff and parliamentary workers in the Palace of Westminster.'

'The figures include 10,989 pints of Guinness, 5,448 pints of Stella Artois, 12,96 bottles of Corona lager and 10,800 bottles of Peroni Nastro Azzuro. The bars and restaurants cater for all tastes, getting through 10.5 litres of Bailer's, 463 litres of Gordon's Gin, 13.3 litres of Jack Daniels, 52 litres of Famous Grouse whisky and 4.5 litres Malibu.'

A Commons spokesperson said that the number of commercial banqueting events and receptions were the main cause of the increased consumption and sales of alcohol.



There have been a number of petitions filed on the UK Parliament website. (If you get

10,000 signatures, the government will respond to the petition. If you get 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament. All petitions run for six months).

Recently (closed 21st Jan 2016) the following petition closed after gaining 2,325 signatures:
All MP's to be mandatory drink & drug tested before debates & voting
'All MP's taking part in any debate and casting any vote on any bill MUST have their blood alcohol level tested and be tested for any drugs that inhibit cognitive function. No where else can you drink & work yet you can in The House of Commons & the House of Lords. This needs banning outright.
'It is an insult to the public to have a bar in parliament that the tax payers pay for & that ministers can use when they wish. There should be absolutely no alcohol available in parliament, a place of work! If a minister is too drunk to drive, they are too drunk to vote! They should also be mandatory drugs tested too. You can not credibly debate or vote on issues relating to the population when you are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The bar in parliament do (sic) be closed down'
A previous petition on the same subject gained 216 signatures and closed 11th March 2014.
Random Drugs and Alcohol tests for MPs and Lords

A petition that was rejected as being too similar to an existing one was entitled:
Urine samples & random drug alcohol testing of all MP's in particular ministers. It read:

The subsidised bars, fights, aggressive and inappropriate behavior and toilets used by MP's where traces of cocaine have been found demand action.

The cross-chamber allegations of drug use are referenced in Hansard, the National papers also refer to the traces of cocaine and the need to refurbish those toilets to remove the offending traces. The fights/aggressive/ inappropriate behavior are all a matter of public record. Decisions of a life and death nature are being made and the public need to be reassured that these MP's take their responsibilities in a sober manner.

A petition to End Subsidised Alcohol in the House of Commons is still current. Put up by Arane Hughes, its gained 651 signatures so far. It closes on the 4th July. It reads: 

'Whilst the UK is undergoing some of the most savage cuts to public services ever the House of Commons bars serve drinks subsidised by the UK taxpayer. This must stop. 
Why is this important?'
 'When so many people are reliant on food banks and tax credits and the number of people living on the poverty line is rising it is disgusting that we should be waisting (sic) money on subsidising cheap drinks for MP's.'
Two previous (undated) petitions on the same subject were rejected because there was already a petition about this issue. They read as follows:
Quite rightly the government is trying to tackle the yobbish behavior of those binging on cheap alcohol by introducing a minimum price per unit. We have seen the results of MP Eric Joyce, fueled on cheap super strength lager, viciously assaulting four of his fellow imbibers in the Strangers bar at the House of Commons. I propose that the minimum price for alcohol in all bars at the House of Commons be set at a price equal to that of the nearest pub, The Red Lion. 

It's a known fact that MP's parliamentary bars are subsidised by the taxpayer. These are bars are serving alcohol in a workplace in working hours at cut prices. 

We want to see a ban of any MP undertaking any parliamentary task under the influence of alcohol. and an end to MP's subsidised bars. 
Being under the influence of alcohol in the workplace during working hours is unacceptable in most jobs in the UK and often an offence that could lead to instant dismissal though not at The House of Commons.
An MP's salary including a 10% pay rise in 2015 stands at £70,000. Why do these employee's of the state have any right to subsidised food and drink at the expense of us the working taxpayer?
The money saved from cutting this subsidy would be better used in our schools & hospitals.



UK MPs ruled by SHARIA LAW: Politicians face alcohol ban as new offices governed by ISLAM

POLITICIANS could face an alcohol ban as the new offices they will be moving into are ruled by Sharia law.

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