What we want to see from the new Prime Minister to reduce alcohol harm

Natasha Buckham | August 2022 | 8 minutes

Many of the issues we’ve been working on to reduce alcohol harm have been put on hold until the new Prime Minister is announced on 5 September. Once they start, they are likely to put together a new team and their priorities may change, and existing plans may not go ahead. Consultations such as the Health Disparities White Paper have been paused for this reason. These are the main things we want to see from the new PM to show their commitment to reducing alcohol harm.


There is currently no legal requirement to put any ingredients, nutrition information, drinking guidelines or health warnings on alcohol labels. The new Prime Minister should recognise that the current approach is ineffective and move to introduce legislation.

One of the previous Government’s areas of interest was reducing obesity, which gave us an opportunity to push for better alcohol labelling. It must change so that consumers can make informed decisions about what, and how much, to drink. Recent research has shown that it’s almost impossible to find this information online as well. Industry-led, voluntary commitments to include information on labels have failed to meet adequate levels of compliance.

The Equality Act

An exclusion clause which exempts alcohol dependence from being defined as a disability in the Act, despite meeting the criteria, leaves those with current, or a past history of, alcohol dependence vulnerable to unfair treatment in hiring and firing processes and in the workplace. The new Prime Minister should urgently remove this exclusion clause from the Act.

The Equality Act protects people with disabilities and other characteristics against discrimination, for example, in the workplace. It also allows people to be discriminated against when accessing other services, such as healthcare or housing. Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand all have equality protections for people with alcohol dependence, leaving the UK as an outlier in this case.

Alcohol duty

We are supporting the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm to hold a roundtable event on alcohol duty in September, where Parliamentarians will keep pushing for duty reform to go ahead once the next Prime Minister has been appointed.

The alcohol duty review was launched in the 2020 Budget, but we’re yet to see the outcome. The current plans for duty reform should remain and be strengthened. The reforms are a huge improvement on the current duty system, especially the proposal to link duty to alcohol strength, which would have a positive impact on public health. However, there are areas for improvement. We want to see an end to ‘cider exceptionalism’, where cider rates are much lower than for other alcohol types. There should also be a commitment to increase duty rates at least in line with inflation each year so that the effects are not diminished over time.

Minimum Unit Pricing

With the final publication of the Scottish evaluation on Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) to be published next year, we want to see the next Prime Minister take a more proactive approach to introducing MUP in England to save lives and reduce pressure on the NHS.

For years, the government line on MUP in England has been to ‘wait and see’, while elsewhere in the UK huge progress has been made. Scotland, Wales and soon Northern Ireland will have MUP. This will bring England in line with the rest of the country.

An independent review of alcohol

We’re calling for the new Government to commission an independent review of alcohol harm to determine the best way forward for a response across all government departments, which can capture the complex nature of alcohol harm.

While these are just a few of our policy priorities, there are many areas where alcohol policies can be introduced or improved. An issue with policy change, especially around alcohol harm, is that it is not the remit of one department and needs a cross-departmental approach to be successful. For example, pricing measures which start in the Treasury will have benefits for population health benefiting other departments such as the Department for Health and Social Care and the Home Office.

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