HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1179-81
18. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the growing incidence of alcoholism in Scotland.

Mr. Monro

The available evidence suggests that the prevalence of alcoholism has increased in recent years. The Government continue to take every possible step to make the dangers known through the campaigns conducted by the Scottish Health Education Unit which, over the the last four years, have been increasing in scope and in the current calendar year are estimated to cost £15,000. A grant of £1,000 is also made to the National Council on Alcoholism to support the work of its industrial organiser. I am also in touch with the Chairman of the local Councils on Alcoholism in Edinburg, Glasgow and Dundee which have recently combined to form a Scottish Council on Alcoholism which, it is hoped, will be representative of all the interests in this field. The council has been given a grant of £6,000 for the current year.

In addition to these efforts the Government have supported two research projects, at a total cost of £52,000, into factors underlying the development of alcoholism.

Mr. Eadie

But will not the hon. Gentleman agree that this is a disease which is spoiling the whole of Scottish family life? Did he see the figures published during the week which said that one family in 10 has a drink problem, that one in 50 Scots are alcoholics, and one in five of the alcoholics in Scotland is a woman and that alcoholism is the third highest cause of death in the country?

Mr. John Smith

This Government are.

Mr. Eadie

In dealing with the cause of this curse of the whole of Scotland, will the hon. Gentleman consider, because of the seriousness and urgency of the problem, setting up a high-powered committee to investigate and to report to him and to this House the outcome?

Mr. Monro

I certainly share the hon. Member's deep concern about this problem. A number of investigations have been made, particularly by the Standing Medical Advisory Committee, and of course I await information from the research projects. If we still lack knowledge of this at the end of these inquiries, I shall consider whether it is necessary to set up a further inquiry. I would like to thank the voluntary organisations which are putting so much effort into this and hon. Members on both sides of the House who have attended conferences and indicated the concern of Parliament about this problem.

Mr. Sproat

Does my hon. Friend accept that there is an appalling connection between drink and crime, particularly in Scotland as opposed to the rest of Great Britain? Is he aware of the recent extraordinary estimate by the police that between 50 and 75 per cent. of all crimes committed in Scotland have drink as a causal element in them?

Mr. Monro

I could not express an opinion on this, but what my hon. Friend has said will be looked at very carefully by my Department.

Mr. Small

In making his study of the effects of alcohol in relation to crime, will the hon. Gentleman consider how great is the effect of social drinking, and stress drinking which has driven people to pilfer?

Mr. Monro

It is extremely difficult to get accurate statistics of this problem. I do not think anything which has been produced by the Health Education Unit would cover the point made by the hon. Member.

Mr. Ross

How much help has the Health Education Unit had from the brewers and distillers of Scotland? Have they provided any finance towards the research?

Mr. Monro

The companies to which the right hon. Member refers have made subscriptions to help with this problem.