Queen's Speech: our response

Natasha Buckham | May 2022 | 9 minutes

On 10 May 2022, the Queen’s speech marked the start of the next parliamentary year, setting out the government’s plans for the upcoming twelve months.

We’ve analysed the Queen's Speech to see if there are any clues as to what will be happening with alcohol policy. Disappointingly, alcohol was not mentioned at all. Overall, the speech had some glaring omissions, such as any future plans for the NHS and healthcare. We had hoped to see mention of the forthcoming Health Disparities White Paper, in which alcohol harm would naturally play a large part, being a major contributing factor not only to population mortality and morbidity, but also to inequalities within the population.

Despite the lack of an explicit mention of alcohol in the speech, we are pleased to see some areas included where alcohol does have a major role, such as in mental health, women’s health and crime.


Mental health

Alcohol problems often accompany a mental health problem but the Mental Health Act Reform Bill does not mention how it will ensure people with dual diagnosis can access treatment. The draft Bill aims to modernise the existing Mental Health Act and allow patients “greater control over their treatment and [to] receive the dignity and respect they deserve”. People with co-occurring alcohol mental health problems can struggle to access services for either condition and this needs to be urgently addressed through the Bill, giving consideration to the impact on people with alcohol problems.

The Bill will also change areas around sectioning someone under the Mental Health Act, ensuring that people are only detained in appropriate situations. We would like to see alcohol dependence also considered in this context, which could help to prevent some of the horrific tragedies we looked at in our report on Safeguarding Adults Reviews, Learning from Tragedies. This would also reduce the stigma surrounding alcohol dependence, so people are treated with dignity and respect when accessing services.

Women’s health

The speech confirmed that the Women's Health Strategy will be published this year, in which we hope to see alcohol harm included. Alcohol can have specific impacts on women’s health, including physical conditions such as breast cancer, mental health impacts, as well as being a contributing factor to violence against women and girls. We submitted evidence to the strategy last year, using testimonies from our supporters to bring to light the impact that alcohol has on women’s health. We highlighted alcohol’s carcinogenic nature, which causes 4,400 cases of breast cancer each year, as well as the impact of alcohol consumption on women’s liver, heart, reproductive, and mental health. The speech mentions that less than three in five women feel comfortable talking to their doctor about mental health. We can imagine this to be even lower when talking about alcohol problems. In polling conducted last year, we found that 57% of people expect they would be supported by their GP for an alcohol problem compared to 69% of people for a mental health problem.


The Online Safety Bill aims to improve “protections for users, especially children”. Although it is not currently included, we hope to see alcohol advertising added to this Bill as it is not appropriate for this advertising to be targeting under-18s. Alcohol advertising is everywhere, not just on billboards, television and cinema, but also in the online space, an area where regulation has not kept up with the pace of technological change. Children are increasingly exposed to alcohol advertising online.


The speech highlighted the Drugs Strategy, which will provide £780million in additional funding over three years. Since services jointly provide drug and alcohol treatment, part of this investment will go towards alcohol treatment as well. The alcohol treatment system is sorely underfunded, with less than 20% of dependent drinkers currently accessing treatment services. In the speech, the Drugs Strategy is mentioned mostly in reference to crime and illegal drugs. However, it is noted that the upcoming investment will “build a world-class system of treatment and recovery” and this will include alcohol treatment too.

Crime and safety

More can be done to reduce the impact of alcohol on crime and safety. The Safer Streets Fund is mentioned in the speech as one of the ways the Government is working to prevent crime, by “providing resources for new and traditional interventions to improve the safety of public places”. Since a significant proportion of anti-social behaviour (11%), theft (12%), criminal damage (21%) and hate crimes (22%) are alcohol-related, we expect the Safer Streets Fund could be used to prevent these crimes, for example through reducing the availability of alcohol through stricter licensing powers.

The speech also mentions the government’s aim to reduce and prevent violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse, violence, and sexual assault. This is an area where alcohol can be a factor. For example, 20-50% of cases of domestic abuse take place when the perpetrator has been drinking, and survivors are more likely to use alcohol to cope with trauma. We will be watching to see the outcome of the Women’s Health Strategy and any other work the government does this year on this topic, to make sure that it takes alcohol harm into account.

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