Alcohol Change UK's hopes for the State Opening of Parliament and the Autumn Statement

November 2023 | 9 minutes

The upcoming month is important for Parliament and the country, as we will see King Charles III’s first state opening where he will formally begin the Parliamentary year on 7 November 2023

With the extravagant procession starting from Buckingham Palace and finishing at the Palace of Westminster, King Charles will deliver a speech from the House of Lords chamber summarising the government’s policy and legislation proposals for the year ahead. Two weeks later, an Autumn Statement will be delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt to the country on 22 November 2023. In the Statement, the Chancellor will update MPs and the public on the country’s finances and proposed plans for tax and public spending. Here’s what we will be looking out for

State opening of Parliament

With November being full of government policies and proposed legislation, we at Alcohol Change UK are going to utilise this moment to voice our key asks that we’d like politicians and civil servants to take into consideration for the next parliamentary session.

At a time when alcohol-specific deaths are at an all-time high, we need an evidence-based national strategy to treat and prevent harm by tackling the affordability, promotion and availability of alcohol and this is what we would normally want to see from the government. However, as there’s not much parliamentary time left before the next election, the government can deliver the below measures for immediate action:

Better alcohol labelling

Only one in five can correctly identify the CMOs’ low-risk weekly drinking guidelines1, and just a quarter are aware that alcohol causes breast cancer.2 Consumers have the right to know what is in the products they are eating and drinking.

Labelling of alcohol products should be improved to include the low-risk drinking guidelines, ingredients, calories and health warnings to give consumers the information they need to make informed choices. The government must fulfil their plans for a consultation on alcohol calorie labelling announced as part of a new obesity strategy in 2020.

Better alcohol treatment

In England, only 1 in 5 dependent drinkers are estimated to be in treatment3. Despite recent funding increases, overall spending remains lower than 2014-15 levels4. Alcohol-specific funding and treatment are necessary, following recent reports of de-prioritisation of alcohol treatment compared to drugs, despite larger numbers of alcohol-related deaths5. Every £1 invested in alcohol treatment yields £3 of social return, rising to £26 over 10 years6.

We’re calling for a significant and sustained increase in funding for these life-saving services.

Removing the exclusion of alcohol dependence from the Equality Act

The Equality Act (2010) protects people with certain characteristics against discrimination in the workplace and wider society but it specifically has a clause excluding people with alcohol dependence from its protections.

We are campaigning to lift this discriminatory exclusion from the Equality Act, and reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by people with alcohol dependence.

Autumn Statement

Introducing minimum unit pricing (MUP) in England

Following the Budget in the Spring, we applaud the Chancellor for introducing a rise in alcohol duty in line with inflation and recognising the need to link duty rates to alcohol strengths. We’ve begun the journey with a small win. However, analysis has shown that the price of alcohol has not risen as much in comparison to other food and drinks. If we consider the decade of real-term duty cuts, the inevitable trade-off was always going to be that the cost of alcohol becomes infinitely affordable and more harmful to society.

This is why we’re calling on the government to commit to reintroducing a duty escalator which would automatically uprate duty rates each year by inflation +2%. This allows the government to claim back costs from the alcohol industry at a higher proportion of the societal costs that it creates, whilst simultaneously supporting pub landlords who can compete fairly against the cheap off-trade alcohol industry, and therefore politicians are seen investing in local economies across the country, whilst recovering the costs that alcohol harm burdens tax-payers with.

Our second key ask is for the government to urgently release their analysis of the Scottish Government’s evaluation of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in Scotland, to decide whether they will introduce this measure in England. MUP sets the lowest price benchmark that can be charged for an alcoholic drink based on the number of units of alcohol it contains. This will target and eliminate dangerous and cheap alcohol that fuels hazardous drinking and help to prevent people becoming dependent drinkers in the long term.

The evaluation published by Public Health Scotland shows that MUP reduced consumption of alcohol in Scotland by 3%, it reduced deaths wholly attributable to alcohol by 13.4% and reduced hospital admissions wholly-attributable to alcohol from chronic causes (such as alcoholic liver disease) by 4.1%.

According to the Office of National Statistics, rates of alcohol-specific deaths have risen in every region of England since 2019 with alcohol liver disease being the lead cause of these deaths. This is why we’re calling on the government to commit to reviewing the evidence for introducing MUP in England, a measure which has proven to save lives in Scotland.

You can keep up to date with the State Opening from 11:00am and Autumn Statement from 13:00pm on Parliamentlive.tv - Commons.

Want to become a campaigner? Find out how to sign up as a campaigner, how to write to your MP, and news on our current campaigning work here.

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Notes

1 Alcohol Health Alliance UK (2021). Just one in five Brits know how many calories are in a glass of wine

2 Alcohol Health Alliance UK (2018). How we drink, what we think.

3 Public Health England (accessed September 2021). Public health dashboard.

4 National Audit Office (2023) Alcohol treatment services briefing

5 PHE (2018) PHE inquiry into the fall in numbers of people in alcohol treatment: findings

6 PHE (2018). Alcohol and drug prevention, treatment and recovery: why invest?.