Totnes’s new MP, Sarah Wollaston – a GP and the first Conservative candidate to have been selected by an all-postal primary – used her maiden speech last week to support the minimum pricing of alcohol (a proposal which Health Secretary Andrew Lansley had reportedly rejected that very morning):
“After the tragedy of the Paddington rail disaster in which 31 people lost their lives, we rightly held a public inquiry and that led to the setting up of the Rail Safety and Standards Board, and after 3,000 terrible deaths in the USA, we joined a “Global War on Terror”, so what should we say should happen after 15,000 to 20,000 deaths every year in this country as a result of alcohol? I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr Barron), who has chaired the Select Committee on Health. It has recommended minimum-price alcohol as the best way forward. That may not be popular—in fact, in suggesting that we cull diseased badgers and raise the price of alcohol, it is clear that I am going for the popular vote! However, unless we do something about this, our constituents will continue to suffer. Let us look at the statistics: 1.3 million children in this country are directly affected by alcohol, and alcohol is a factor in half of all homicides. Members also need only consider the number of constituents they see in their surgeries who are victims of domestic violence. Alcohol continues to be the number one date-rape drug in this country, too. I ask all Members to look at the evidence, so we can have evidence-based politics.
“The evidence is out there, and it is very clear. If we want to do something about the death toll—15,000 to 20,000 people a year in this country—we have to do something about price and availability. This is not about the nanny state; lives are at stake, and I ask the House to look again at the evidence, not only from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence report issued today, but from its own Select Committee. I commend minimum-price alcohol to the House. There is no such thing as cheap alcohol; we are all paying a very heavy price.”
Dr Wollaston also took the opportunity afforded by her maiden speech to note “the adverse effect of the common fisheries policy on our fishing industry” and to highlight the problem of bovine TB in her constituency.