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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, in the light of the White House request for a further 600 million dollars on top of the 300 million already spent, what is the total UK contribution?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am not in a position to give your Lordships an idea of the total UK monetary contribution. Our contribution in terms of participation in and support for the survey group has been predicated not only on our sharing relevant findings but on having operational input and offering advice on strategy through the appropriate channels. I shall do my best to obtain a monetary figure for your Lordships and place a copy of my response to the noble Lord in the Library of the House. However, this is not purely a monetary issue; it is also about participation.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, will the interim or final report be made available to this Parliament?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have asked for a copy of the interim report to be placed in the Library of the House. The interim report is also available on the Internet. It can be found at If the noble Lord wants to look that up he is now in a position to do so. However, he need not go to that trouble because I shall ensure that a copy is placed in the Library of the House.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I note that on 5th June, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, then Her Majesty's representative at the United Nations, announcing the setting up of the ISG, stated,

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Does that not imply that the British Government are very much part of a joint operation for which the Government should be responsible to Parliament?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Indeed, my Lords, but I do not think that what Sir Jeremy Greenstock said goes against what I have said. We are participating by way of our input to and strategic support for the ISG. However, as a matter of accuracy it is not part of the Coalition Provisional Authority. I am bound to tell your Lordships that in the end it really does not make a great deal of difference because a version of the report will be placed in the Library. The full report cannot be placed in the Library—noble Lords would not expect that to be the case—because if published it would jeopardise the security of personnel on the ground in Iraq. However, it will be available to the ISC and I am assured that that will reflect the availability of the report to the equivalent committees in the United States.

Alcohol: Binge Drinking

3.14 p.m.

Lord Turnberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the Strategy Unit's recent report about the adverse effects of "binge" drinking, what practical steps they are taking to combat heavy alcohol consumption.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the interim analytical report published by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit in September highlighted the scale of alcohol misuse in England. The National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England will be published later this year and will contain measures to tackle the range of harms caused by alcohol misuse, including binge drinking. As this is a devolved issue, the governments in Scotland and Wales are also working in this area and the Strategy Unit is in close touch with them.

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that response. I commend the Government for taking this matter seriously. The burden of heavy alcohol consumption on society and health is very serious indeed. It is enormous and costs several million pounds per year. With one in three men and one in five women drinking beyond the recommended safe limits, it is a particular problem.

Does the Minister agree that among the several measures which need to be taken, one simple one would be the labelling of alcoholic drinks with recommended safe limits? Does he also agree that the practice of some Premier League football clubs of marketing their own brand of alcoholic drinks, including whisky, sends quite the wrong message to the young?

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord makes two very important points. These are issues to which the strategy unit will undoubtedly return when it produces its final report. Given the state of some parts of the football industry, far be it from me to suggest that football clubs relinquish any revenue through promotions, but this is an issue which needs to be addressed.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of the recent disturbing report by a distinguished gastro-enterologist, Dr Christopher Record, in Newcastle upon Tyne of a marked increase in the number of young women suffering from liver damage as a consequence of high alcohol consumption; such young women being under the misapprehension that they are safely able to drink as much as young men? What action will the Government take to target that particular vulnerable group?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we are well aware of the vulnerability of all in our society to excessive drinking. This is one of those issues on which we shall have to make recommendations, particularly in terms of health promotion and of encouraging moderate and sensible drinking.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, this problem cuts across three departments: the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Does that not indicate the need for joined-up thinking across those three departments? Will the Government consider setting up such a committee?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I would go a little further than the noble Viscount and suggest that this subject touches more departments than he indicated. I refer, for instance, to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which has important liaison with local authorities. I think that the Department of Transport and the Department of Trade and Industry would have something to say. Yes, we are well aware of the need for joined-up thinking. That is precisely why the Strategy Unit was placed in charge of producing a report and a strategy across government. For those reasons, all of those departments have been involved in discussion and consultation to produce the interim report and no doubt will be involved in discussions to provide the background for the final strategy report.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, rather than waiting for the report of the Strategy Unit, why do the Government not set a good example by reducing the consumption of alcohol at their own social occasions? Is the Minister aware that I have been unable to discover by means of Questions how much alcohol is consumed by government departments when they act as hosts, and that the Prime Minister refused to answer a letter I wrote to him asking for the drinks bill of 10 Downing Street?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I was not aware of that. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his

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advice and information on this matter. Clearly, it is important for us all in politics to set a good example as regards drinking, but not to moralise.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, now that more women are going into the Armed Forces and trying to compete with men, how much education is given to women about the dangers of binge drinking and competing with men?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I could not put a quantity on that. I would have thought that it makes good sense in educational terms that those in government and in public life ensure that we make everyone in society aware of the dangers of binge drinking. This is a very important issue. It is for that reason that the Strategy Unit was given the important job of looking at ways in which we can improve public information on the subject. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her comments.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the term "binge drinking" has been somewhat misused? It usually relates to licensing arrangements of one kind or another, and we have a change imminent. In fact binge drinking—to anyone who knows anything about the history of this country—has been part of our drinking habits for hundreds of years. It is a cultural matter: people drink to get drunk very quickly. In Italy, for example, they do not do so. So a great deal of education in cultural change is needed. That takes a long time. Do the Government have any plans to address that particular aspect of the issue?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I simply say to the noble Lord that he would find it useful, if he has not done so already, to look at the Strategy Unit's interim report. It seeks to address exactly that issue. The noble Lord makes a good point; that the culture that surrounds drinking varies across countries. One issue of concern, certainly here, has been binge drinking associated with the drinking-up period in public houses.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the point made by both the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was about women competing with men. In the past we have again and again had very good health warnings explaining that women can drink only half the quantity of alcohol that men can. Why is it that we are no longer getting the same amount of health education on this point?

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