HL Deb 02 November 1976 vol 376 cc1074-7

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ensure, now that a formula has been agreed between the Brewers' Society and the trade protection and charitable bodies for the distribution of the Licensing Compensation Fund, that at least 25 per cent. of the income thereof shall be paid annually to the National Council on Alcoholism.


My Lords, the proposals which the Brewers' Society and the licensed trade associations have jointly put forward for the disposal of these funds are not free from difficulties and require further discussion. We are therefore not yet able to formulate firm proposals on how the funds should be disposed of and what interests might benefit.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, may I ask whether he would consider looking favourably on the National Council because it is not just a figurehead but must support 18 regional councils? Would he also look at the situation of the Medical Council on Alcoholism? Further, could he say whether the Home Office has received the delegation which was announced a fort-night ago in the Morning Advertiser?


My Lords, if and when money is available for distribution among the organisations who are concerned with the remedial side of this problem, obviously the Government will give very favourable consideration; but I must point out to the noble Earl that there are quite a number of organisations that would have some claim. The two organisations which he has mentioned already receive quite substantial grants, and have done so for some time, from the Department of Health and Social Security. On March 23rd this year, I told your Lordships that the Home Office were having discussions with the Magistrates' Association, the Justices Clerks' Society, the Brewers' Society, the National Federation of Licensed Victuallers and the Licensed Victuallers' Society. These discussions have been going on simultaneously with the Brewers' Society.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, if bids arc in order, there is a paramount need at the moment to support those voluntarily organisations which are caring for alcoholics and that it is on the cards that, unless such subventions can be made available, it is likely that many of them will have to lose, to the general disadvantage of the attempts to deal with alcoholism? Is the noble Lord further aware that, if some people regard this money as tainted, we are prepared to baptise it, and would be only too eager to do so?


My Lords, I can only repeat that certainly the Government would give favourable consideration to where the need is most urgent. But it depends entirely upon the conditions of the trust fund that would be set up and in which direction the money could be spent.


My Lords, does the noble Lord realise what a large amount of research work into the prevention and cure of alcoholism is being carried out under the auspices of the Medical Council for the Care of the Alcoholic?


So much so, my Lords, that I think I am right in saying that the Department of Health and Social Security make a substantial grant to them for that purpose.


My Lords, in view of the fact that this money has been lying idle for so many years—from the end of the last war—is it not time that it was used for the purposes for which it was originally set aside? Will the Government see to it that something is done rapidly? It seems a grave injustice to have funds which should be available for charitable purposes put aside like this without being used.


My Lords, I do not know whether my noble friend is aware that the money was set aside originally to compensate licensees of public houses who were made redundant. It was not set aside originally for research purposes at all. This is one of the problems. I do not want to spend too much time on it, but the Erroll Committee came forward with certain recommendations and the Brewers' Society came forward with certain others. There will be a need for a certain amount of discussion to reconcile the different points of view.


My Lords, is it correct to say that over the last few years there has been a very alarming increase in alcoholism and alcohol-related disease, to such an extent that treatment of these diseases under the National Health Service is costing something of the order of hundreds of millions of pounds per annum? If the suggestion of my noble friend were accepted, is it correct that the amount which would be available to the National Council would be of the order of £100,000 per annum which is three orders of magnitude less than the cost of the treatment of alcoholism and alcohol-related disease?


My Lords, I do not think there is any voluntary organisation that can say what percentage of the money that may be available it should receive. The suggestion of the Brewers' Society at the moment is that 50 per cent. shall be put aside by way of trust to help various bodies who are trying to combat, by way of research and in other ways, the evils of alcoholism. As I said earlier, there are a number of organisations and if and when that money is available their claims will have to be considered. I do not think it would be right for any organisation to feel that they would be entitled to a certain percentage.