HC Deb 26 July 1977 vol 936 cc293-4
10. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she has received any representations on the incidence of alcoholism among schoolchildren.

Miss Margaret Jackson

No, Sir.

Mr. McCrindle

1s there not growing evidence that drinking and alcoholism among teenagers is becoming as great a menace now as drug-taking was in the 1960s? I welcome the publicity given in schools in regard to excessive drinking, but does not the Under-Secretary feel that the same horrific approach as is employed to point out the dangers of smoking might well be employed in this case? Will she give this her backing?

Miss Jackson

I think that the hon. Gentleman is confusing the problems of drinking—even excessive drinking—and alcoholism, which is a completely different degree of difficulty. I do not accept that there is a great deal of evidence of excessive drinking. There have been one or two reports, and in at least one of those the person preparing the report said that the incidence of such cases was minimal. This is an area which we are watching and which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is already watching, in connection with preventive medicine, but it is not my understanding that there is great evidence that there is a serious problem at present.

Mr. Flannery

Does my hon. Friend agree that we should not exaggerate this problem and thereby convey the wrong impression and detract from education generally? Does she agree that there is deep concern among schoolchildren about the increase of drinking among adults?

Miss Jackson

Yes. I would add only that in a recent inquiry by Her Majesty's inspectors only one case of drunkenness in schools was found, and this concerned someone who had indulged at a party outside school and had a hangover the following day.

Mr. Nelson

Is the Under-Secretary aware that her replies this afternoon will be regarded by many people as showing a great deal of complacency? Has she read the report of the Medical Council on Alcoholism or of the National Council of Women which recently showed that about 50 per cent. of 13-to-15-year-olds drink on a fairly regular basis? Does she not feel that this implies that the Government should be considering taking further action to bring home to parents the importance of instructing children to appreciate this problem and the importance of instituting such education in schools as well?

Miss Jackson

There is a difference between drinking, even excessive drinking, and alcoholism. I accept fully that it is the responsibility of the school and parents and not of the schools alone. It is not the duty of schools alone to remedy the ills of society. I would add—perhaps it may be the fault of a politician—that I would rather be accused of complacency than of inaccuracy.