A recent report by senior civil servant Sue Gray looks into the parties and ‘work events’ held at Downing Street which allegedly broke UK lockdown rules. Among other things the report raises serious concerns about the alcohol use within the UK government.
The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time,” wrote Sue Gray, senior civil servant, in the report titled ‘Investigating into Alleged Gatherings on Government Premises During COVID Restrictions – Update’, as per The Guardian.
Steps must be taken to ensure that every government department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace.”Sue Gray, senior civil servant and author ‘Investigating into Alleged Gatherings on Government Premises During COVID Restrictions – Update’ report
There have been repeated reports of a harmful alcohol norm associated with work at No. 10 Downing Street. Ranging from a wine fridge in an office to an official being asked to buy a suitcase full of alcohol for a party. Many of the pubs surrounding the office used to get crowded with officials from No. 10 before the pandemic.
Since the pandemic, it appears the situation got worse with more and more alcohol products being brought into the office. Several events held during lockdown time are currently under investigation for violating UK lockdown rules.
The findings are concerning, regarding the health and well-being of the employees in the UK government – epecially considering the lethal interaction between alcohol and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Alcohol amplifies the pandemic by reducing people’s immunity and increasing virus transmission as people consume alcohol in groups with reduced adherence to COVID-19 control measures such as mask use and physical distancing.
- Alcohol harm places a heavy burden on health and emergency services which are overstretched during the pandemic.
- Big Alcohol has been exploiting the pandemic with aggressive marketing and for their decades-long alcohol policy deregulation agenda.
The news about the deep rooted and harmful alcohol norm in No. 10 Downing Street come amidst a spike in alcohol problems in the UK.
- The British government Office for Health Improvement and Disparities announced results from a YouGov poll which found that 18% of adults had high-risk alcohol use over a three months period to October 2021.
- In 2020, the Office for National Statistics reported that there was a 19% increase in alcohol-specific deaths in the UK. This is the highest increase in alcohol deaths since the records began.
Despite the obvious harm alcohol causes to people, alcohol products remain extremely cheap in England. Under the influence of the alcohol industry lobby, the UK government has been cutting or freezing alcohol taxes since 2012. As a result, the alcohol industry has been increasing their profit margins at the cost of British peoples’ health and lives. Cheap alcohol products specifically prey on the most vulnerable, such as the most deprived communities and people with alcohol problems.
In Scotland and Wales increases in alcohol problems during the pandemic are comparatively lower than in England. This is possibly because of alcohol minimum unit pricing (MUP) in both countries off-setting the UK tax cuts. According to a study published in The Lancet, the alcohol MUP in Scotland led to a 7.7% decrease in household alcohol purchases in 2020. In Wales the decrease was 8.6%.
It is crucial that the UK government invests in alcohol policy improvements to protect the health and well-being of the British people from harms caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry.