SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

inline image

In this occasional series we record the views and personal experience of people who have especially contributed to the evolution of ideas in the journal's field of interest. Derek Rutherford has for the past many years initiated and guided pro-health activism in the alcohol field. His contributions have had international as well as national impact.

STARTING OUT

  1. Top of page
  2. STARTING OUT
  3. LEAVING UNIVERSITY
  4. HEADING THE NCA
  5. ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA
  6. RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL
  7. THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES
  8. EUROCARE AND GAPA
  9. References

Addiction (A): You been involved in alcohol policy for, is it 60 years? Why has the alcohol issue been so important for you for so long?

Derek Rutherford (DR): I suppose everything starts from my coming from a mining community in the northeast of England, and joining a children's branch of the International Organization of Good Templars (IOGT) when I was 9 years old. I was learning to clog dance and saw a banner at one of the dances, asked what it was about and my girl partner said: ‘it's our lodge meeting’; I said: ‘what's that?’. ‘Well, you get free ice cream and jelly’, so I said: ‘well, I'm coming’. When I got there I discovered it was a children's temperance meeting held in Easington Colliery. I joined, and that was the start. The point was, I could see the relevance of it. I do not come from a temperance family, and in fact my father was Secretary of Easington Miners' Lodge and also Chairman of the Easington Working Men's Club, which functioned as a kind of pub. I recognized within my own family the problems of acute intoxication and the violence that could come from it. So what I was told at that meeting all made sense.

A: So thanks to jelly and ice cream you were a dedicated alcohol campaigner at a very young age. Did you also have other interests?

DR: In my youth I had three loves: the temperance movement; the church, because I was also an active member of the Baptist Church in Easington; and the Labour Party. They were the three organizations that I was committed to and they all came together. I discovered that both Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party in Britain, and Arthur Henderson, who was the first Labour Foreign Secretary and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1930s, had grown up in IOGT. When I saw these two leaders of the Labour Party as members of this organization I had joined as a child, they were my role models, along with Emmanuel Shinwell, who was the MP for Easington and a former Labour cabinet minister.

‘In my youth I had three loves: the temperance movement; the church, because I was also an active member of the Baptist Church . . . ; and the Labour Party.’

A: Has being a temperance man all your life been a help or a hindrance in your professional career?

DR: Both: a help in the sense that when I became the Director of the National Council on Alcoholism, the facts of the alcohol issue were at my fingertips, and also in the sense that my background gave me the strength to do some of the things that I have had to do. The alcohol cause is not always popular, and I remembered one of the early temperance hymns: ‘Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose firm and dare to make it known’. The message of that hymn gives strength.

A: And the hindrance?

DR: I was in the Labour Party and people always thought that I would become an MP, which was my principal ambition; and in fact, I might have been selected as the candidate for the safe Labour seat of Easington had it not been for the Party members from the local brewery who all voted against me. I have always had to watch my back regarding my abstinence, as the alcohol industry has always tried to use it against me.

A: Your religious convictions were clearly important to you because you went to Leeds University to read theology. Have they influenced the way you see alcohol issues?

DR: No, it was not the church that gave me the knowledge about alcohol and my attitude to it, it was the accident of joining the children's temperance meeting. In fact, the church's influence could be to the contrary, because during the last 50 years Methodism and the other Free Churches have become much more liberal towards alcohol. But I have been interested in the spiritual aspect of alcohol dependence and I think my theological studies prepared me much better for dealing with problem drinkers than a degree in sociology would have done.

A: Given your induction into the temperance movement as a child, has your view of the nature of the alcohol issue changed over the years or have you retained the views you acquired originally?

DR: What I know about alcohol is what I learned from my experience as a child growing up in a home where alcohol was used. In that way the alcohol cause has never been of merely academic interest for me, but always deeply personal. In terms of general outlook, when I entered the mainstream alcohol field in my 20s it was dominated by the disease model, the view that alcoholism comes in people, not in bottles. The decline of this view and its replacement by the public health model really meant a return to the temperance perspective I acquired very early, which always accepted that the problem is actually all to do with alcohol, and that if consumption increases then so will the level of harm. Hence the importance the movement placed on factors such as price and availability; but it was very interesting to me that there were still continuing battles within the mainstream alcohol field about issues such as price. In 1972 I, as a young man, was invited by the main temperance body, the United Kingdom Alliance, to join their deputation to the Erroll Committee, a committee on liquor licensing that sought to liberalize the liquor licensing laws in England and Wales, set up by the then Conservative government [1]. We, of course, opposed liberalization. I remember Lord Erroll stopping me as we were leaving, and saying: ‘Mr Rutherford, don't you think that in future dealing with this problem will be about price, not licensing law?’. Later, in 1975, by which time I was with the National Council on Alcoholism, I spoke at one of the Liverpool International Conferences on Alcohol on the need to increase price, and I was heckled by some of the people in the audience. This included some leading psychiatrists of the time with an interest in alcohol, and also some academics who subsequently became leading names in the field. When I returned to London from Liverpool I remember Dr Alan Sippert, the Medical Officer with the alcohol team at the Department of Health at that time, saying to me: ‘Derek, we can't leave a prevention policy in the hands of psychiatrists’. That remark stayed with me.

LEAVING UNIVERSITY

  1. Top of page
  2. STARTING OUT
  3. LEAVING UNIVERSITY
  4. HEADING THE NCA
  5. ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA
  6. RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL
  7. THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES
  8. EUROCARE AND GAPA
  9. References

A: Can we return to your earlier days? What did you plan to do when you left university?

DR: I thought I would have a political career, but my profession was going to be teaching. I was a schoolteacher for a few years, until I was invited to become the Education Officer of the United Kingdom Alliance. It was there I set up the Teachers' Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drug Education (TACADE).

A: What was the purpose of TACADE?

DR: The point was that the temperance movement had a bad image. Its decline really started in the 1960s, when the age of permissiveness began, and there was a reaction against anything that suggested restrictiveness. For example, there was the 1961 Licensing Act, and I remember the Attorney General at the time, at the third reading of that Bill in the House of Commons, quoting Horace by saying: ‘Now is the time to drink. Now is the time to stamp the floor with the feet of freedom’. Another sign of the permissive ethos was the removal of much of the information about alcohol that had been in the Health Education Handbook for schoolteachers. I went on another deputation from the Alliance, this time to see the Minister of Education about this, and our conclusion was that a body needed to be set up to press the case for alcohol education in schools. I accepted the challenge, and as it was not feasible to undertake the task as the United Kingdom Alliance I set up a separate body, a Council which was basically made up of teachers and academics to press the case, and indeed to undertake alcohol education in schools ourselves. At that time there was, of course, a growing drug problem in the country, and everybody was emphasizing drugs even though the statistics showed that among teenagers the alcohol problem was the bigger issue, and growing. We decided that TACADE would have to be concerned with both alcohol and drug education, and it was such a success that it still exists today, although under very different auspices.

HEADING THE NCA

  1. Top of page
  2. STARTING OUT
  3. LEAVING UNIVERSITY
  4. HEADING THE NCA
  5. ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA
  6. RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL
  7. THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES
  8. EUROCARE AND GAPA
  9. References

A: Presumably your record at TACADE helped to make you a strong candidate for the post of Director of the National Council on Alcoholism (NCA). This was billed as the National Agency on Alcohol Misuse, but though it had already existed for 10 years before you took over, it had not previously received government funding. So your arrival coincided with the government beginning to take an interest in the alcohol issue, and the development of alcohol services. What was the role of the NCA in all this?

DR: The NCA began to gain government funding in 1972 under the then Minister of Health, Sir Keith Joseph, who happened to be the nephew of Harry Vincent, the Chairman of the NCA at the time. An alcohol team was put together in the Department of Health, and a sum of money was given to the NCA to provide a national focus on the alcohol issue, and to oversee and extend a national network of local councils on alcohol across England and Wales. At that time six such councils had already been set up, and when I finished there were mote than 40, covering every region and more or less every major city. The idea of the councils was that they would be a source of alcohol information for the general public and that also developed into providing community-based helping services for people with drinking problems.

A: This period in the 1970s coincided with the eruption of the debate about whether problem drinkers had to become abstinent, or whether they could learn to control their drinking. Did that impinge upon you at the NCA?

DR: Among the professionals there was a growing argument that you could teach alcoholics controlled drinking, and that issue was divisive. We avoided a split in the NCA by setting up a committee to review the question and issue advice to the local council people about which clients could be offered controlled drinking and which could not [2]. We concluded that controlled drinking should not be offered to dependent drinkers meeting a number of criteria, including experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms. However, for people in the early stages of problem drinking—and part of the idea of the Councils was to help facilitate early identification of drinking problems—controlled drinking might be offered. I think it was a fair, scientifically based compromise and it did prevent a split in the NCA.

A: You knew personally both Max Glatt and D. L. Davies, two of the leading protagonists on opposite sides of this argument.

DR: Yes. D. L. Davies was the main advocate for teaching controlled drinking to alcoholics. I knew him because we were both appointed to an Advisory Committee on Alcohol, which the government of the day had set up. I remember his telling me how he had been a smoker but had given up smoking, just like that. I asked him if he had ever tried controlled smoking and he raised a wry smile. He was a nice man and was responsible for setting up the Alcohol Education Centre at the Maudsley Hospital. This had the job of educating and training social workers and other professionals in dealing with alcohol problems.

A: And Max Glatt?

DR: Max Glatt was one of the founders of the NCA. He was an eminent psychiatrist of the time who pioneered the alcohol treatment units within psychiatric hospitals. He was a lovely man, and if I had ever had to have a psychiatrist deal with me it would have been Max Glatt, no one else. His whole family had been destroyed in the German concentration camps. He had been helped to escape from Germany by the Bonhoeffers, the family of the famous theologian, He was very much the established figure who was opposed to controlled drinking. There was real antagonism between him and D. L. Davies.

‘. . . if I had ever had to have a psychiatrist deal with me it would have been Max Glatt, no one else’.

ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA

  1. Top of page
  2. STARTING OUT
  3. LEAVING UNIVERSITY
  4. HEADING THE NCA
  5. ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA
  6. RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL
  7. THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES
  8. EUROCARE AND GAPA
  9. References

A: What do you regard as the main achievements of your NCA days?

DR: There were a number of specific initiatives we took that have been of lasting value, and we were also at the forefront of steering the alcohol field into primary prevention and, in the most literal sense, into the political arena, which no one else was doing at the time. The specific achievements included, as I have said, extending the network of local alcohol information centres and, connected with those, creating a scheme to train voluntary alcohol counsellors. One of the things that surprised me coming to the NCA, as a supposedly non-governmental organization (NGO) of volunteers, was that the majority of directors of the local councils on alcoholism were recovered alcoholics who were paid to do the job and I felt, if we were to prove our worth, we had to show that volunteers could counsel people with drinking problems. We had a minister at the time in the Lords, Lord Wells Pestell, one of the founders of the Marriage Guidance Council, as it was known at that time, and we took that as a model. I had to sell this to the Department of Health. The first thing I had to tell them was that we could not just simply be an information service. If you set yourself up as an information service on alcohol problems problem drinkers will turn up, and you have to be able to offer them some help. I obtained a grant from a charitable trust and support from the Department of Health and, together with the Alcohol Education Centre, we set up the first training courses. The scheme proved to be very successful, and so far as I know it still continues.

A: The NCA was called into action on the drink drive issue at one time. What was that about?

DR: The specific issue was a rehabilitation scheme for drink drivers with alcohol problems, which became in due course the High Risk Offender Scheme. Dr Alan Sippert, the Department's medical officer, was a member of the Blennerhassett Committee, which had been set up to review the first 10 years of the drink driving law following the introduction of the 80 mg% alcohol limit in 1967 [3]. The concern was that the rise in alcohol consumption was undermining the effectiveness of the Act. Alan was keen to get the Committee to recommend a drink drive rehabilitation scheme and asked me to produce, within 24 hours, a statement to Blennerhassett on this issue. So I produced a recommendation that anybody over 150 mg% should have their driving licence removed until they could prove they no longer had a drinking problem. This was intended not to be punitive, but as rehabilitative for the individual and the family. When Blennerhassett produced their report they accepted the principle but said that, because of the numbers involved, the cut-off point should be 200 mg%. It took a long time after Blennerhassett reported for the government to enact that proposal, but it did happen eventually.

A: The NCA also published a report on alcohol and work that attracted a great deal of attention. What were you trying to achieve?

DR: Part of the story was that we wanted to broaden the national perspective on alcohol from thinking just about dependence to also being aware of the problem of inappropriate consumption and acute intoxication. We also wanted to increase public awareness that most harm from alcohol occurred in the population at large, including the working population, and was not restricted to marginal groups. Therefore we presented data on deaths from liver disease by occupation, and also on alcohol and accidents in the work-place, and raised the issue of absenteeism and lost production. The government's Health and Safety Executive took it on board and started encouraging the adoption of alcohol and work policies in employing organizations.

A: At this time the issue of primary prevention was becoming more prominent. What role did the NCA play in this?

DR: It was always a contested issue; but later on, the Secretary of State for Health demanded that the NCA find common ground with the alcohol industry, which would have nullified any real attempt to grapple with the prevention issue. One specific development concerned the government's Advisory Committee on Alcohol I have already mentioned. That was originally set up to look at problem drinking services but I remember that, at one of the sessions, Griffith Edwards insisted we should also consider a prevention report. Eventually Griffith won his way and I became a member of the prevention committee, which was then established. We made five main recommendations to do with price and so forth, and I am bound to say that, had the government accepted them, we may have avoided the scale of the problems we have today [4].

A: You had a Member of Parliament, Sir Bernard Braine, as your Chairman. Did that give the work of the NCA a political dimension?

DR: Absolutely. Bernard was a well-known back-bench Conservative MP who had been a junior health minister, and he was never just a figurehead. He enabled us to take alcohol policy into the political domain, into Parliament. It happened that while the Advisory Committee on Alcohol was sitting, Kenneth Clarke, then a new MP, introduced a private member's bill to liberalize the licensing law. Later on, Clarke became Chancellor of the Exchequer and he is currently the Justice Secretary in our present government, but his interest then was in abolishing most of the licensing restrictions that applied at that time, to allow almost 24-hour pub opening. He also wanted to allow children unaccompanied by an adult into pubs until 8 at night. That was what concerned many people, including at the Department of Health. The Secretary at the Department, Penny Lee, said to me: ‘we hope Sir Bernard will fight this bill’.

A: So there was not unanimity between government departments?

DR: What was significant about this was that there was clearly a difference of view between the Department of Health and the Home Office. The Home Office under Roy Jenkins was taking a permissive line, whereas the Department of Health was starting to be influenced by the consumption model of alcohol problems. Around this time the Home Office published a paper by one of its scientific research officers, Mary Tuck, attacking the consumption model [5]; so there was a battle between the two departments, but we were with the Department of Health and we fought Kenneth Clarke's bill. I remember sitting up night after night writing speeches for Sir Bernard using Kettil Bruun's Alcohol Control Policies in Public Health Perspective[6], and if you look up the Hansard of the time you will see it full of that report. We fought the Clarke Bill tooth and nail, and it was good for me in my relationship with Sir Bernard because I got him on the front page of The Times.

RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL

  1. Top of page
  2. STARTING OUT
  3. LEAVING UNIVERSITY
  4. HEADING THE NCA
  5. ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA
  6. RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL
  7. THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES
  8. EUROCARE AND GAPA
  9. References

A: Kenneth Clarke's bill was defeated, but subsequently both Conservative and Labour governments did liberalize the licensing law. How well do you think the alcohol policy field performed in relation to those developments?

DR: Mixed. By the time Labour's reforms came in, the NCA had gone and I had moved back to the Alliance, where we did our best, as did other people, to fight our corner and to mitigate the worst effects of the reforms. However, Sir Bernard was the voice of alcohol control policy in parliament and he has never been replaced. This is the tragedy. No other MP has been as committed to this cause as he was. Bernard was not a teetotaller, he was a drinker, but he was committed to the cause and worked tirelessly in the House. He fought every other private member's licensing bill, he fought a government-licensing bill and he was prepared to go into the division lobby against his own Party, a very big step for a politician to take. It is very interesting that when the Conservatives produced a licensing bill Douglas Hurd, the then Home Secretary, called Bernard to the Home Office to try to win his support, and some bargaining took place. This did not stop Bernard attacking the government's bill, but it did result in Douglas Hurd agreeing to make use of a sum of money that had been lying dormant since 1906, intended originally to compensate licensees for losing their licences as a result of changes to the licensing law, to set up the Alcohol Education and Research Council. This, of course, continues as the main dedicated fund for alcohol research in the United Kingdom, and I look on it as another triumph of the NCA.

A: I assume you think the Labour government was lucky that Bernard Braine was not still around when they introduced their 24-hour drinking Act?

DR: I do; but it was also that Labour people had changed and the Labour Party had become much more pro-alcohol. Keir Hardie must have turned in his grave. You can see that in the way Labour opposed the Scottish National Party (SNP) government's policy on minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland. Labour became very middle class, losing its working-class roots. We were promised that the Tony Blair Labour government would lower the drink drive limit from 80 mg% to 50 mg%, but they reneged on it once they came into office. Labour is no longer the party it was on the alcohol issue. Much the same is true of the churches. The Methodist Church supported Labour's 24-hour drinking Act. Labour's last great alcohol law was Barbara Castle's breath test Act in 1967. I am delighted that just before she died we held a special luncheon for her at which we paid tribute to her for that work.

‘. . . Labour people had changed and the Labour Party had become much more pro-alcohol’.

A: In the early 1980s the government re-organized the national alcohol organizations; the NCA disappeared to be replaced by Alcohol Concern. You saw this coming and returned to the Alliance. How did you see things developing from there?

DR: Well, I had a call from the Chairman of the Alliance, Dr Stuart Horner. He asked me to come over and revitalize the work of the Alliance. I seized the challenge because that, to me, was where I really belonged and I was going home. While at the NCA, I had already got the Alliance to put money into promoting work-place alcohol policies, following on from our report on alcohol and work. Prior to this, the government had insisted that Sir Bernard should obtain money from the drinks industry for the NCA. The Brewers' Society produced £8000, and while Bernard was happy to receive it I was worried that it would handicap me in my work. I knew that taking money from the industry was a bad idea. Our ‘Alcohol and Work’ report had published the figures showing that publicans had high mortality from cirrhosis, and the brewers had not liked it. They objected to my publishing the figures, and wrote to me telling me that I should remember who was helping to fund the organization. I simply wrote back and said that these were the official, standard mortality figures that could be seen by anybody, but it showed something about the attitudes of the alcohol industry which has influenced me in my later work. It showed me that you cannot be in the pocket of the industry because they will try to control you and the information you give. Anyway, I got the Alliance to balance the financial donation from the brewers, so when we could see the NCA was going to become defunct the work-place project was moved back to the body which had been funding it. This provided the basis of what became the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS).

THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES

  1. Top of page
  2. STARTING OUT
  3. LEAVING UNIVERSITY
  4. HEADING THE NCA
  5. ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA
  6. RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL
  7. THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES
  8. EUROCARE AND GAPA
  9. References

A: Presumably you did not want the IAS to be restricted to promoting work-place policies. How did you see it developing?

DR: When the government set about reorganizing the national alcohol misuse agencies, they decided originally that the replacement body would not have an advocacy role: it would just be a service provider. So the government created a vacuum which we tried to fill. We were independent, not beholden to government or any external body, and certainly not to the alcohol industry, as we had our own funds and we were able to fight the alcohol policy cause. We tried to be the bridge between the research community, on one side, and the opinion formers and the policy makers on the other side. We pursued a range of policy issues, from drink driving to alcohol affordability. We published many of papers; we had our own journal; we responded to Green and White Papers from the government; we commissioned research on the economics of alcohol consumption and harm, on alcohol and violence and on alcohol and cardiovascular disease, and we cultivated the media. So the Institute filled a gap, and I think the success of it was shown when, during Gordon Brown's premiership, the Chairman of the Institute, Professor Brian Prichard, was invited to 10 Downing Street to participate in an alcohol summit chaired by the then Prime Minister.

A: One of the differences in the field now compared to when you were starting out and at the NCA is that it has become much more professionalized, and that there are many more people involved.

DR: It is true that there was much less interest in those days from professionals, but having said that, we would not have achieved what we did achieve in the 1970s had it not been for the Medical Royal Colleges. They wrote very helpful reports on alcohol that gave credibility to what we were saying [7,8]. Sir Bernard used many of the Royal College of Physicians' and the Royal College of Psychiatrists' reports in his speeches in the House of Commons debates. The British Medical Association (BMA) also took it on. Then there came that hiatus when the medics seemed to lose interest, but we are now back to the medical organizations playing a leadership role in the whole alcohol policy area through the Alcohol Health Alliance. However, the greatest tragedy is that we have not been able to create a people's movement. We have not been able to have the grass roots marching as they did in an earlier era. Why did we get all these changes from a problem drinking society in the 19th and early 20th century and then sobriety in the 1930s? Because there was a temperance movement made up of ordinary people who believed in their cause. We have many more professionals working in the field, but there is no popular movement which means that, politically speaking, there are no votes to counterbalance the influence of the alcohol industry on governments and on alcohol policy.

A: Your distrust of the alcohol industry has been constant throughout your career. Would it be fair to say that much of your life has been devoted to doing battle with the industry?

DR: The bottom line for the alcohol industry is profit, and it will always be profit, and it will never agree to policies that will detract from its profits.

The industry is the main obstacle to alcohol policy globally, not just in the United Kingdom, although it is especially strong in the United Kingdom. You simply have to look at the way the industry manipulated their advertising to suit the developing culture in our country. You just have to consider alcopops, trying to encourage young girls and others onto alcohol, the attractive sweet lemonade alcoholic drinks to get children drinking. Now Diageo gives money to education for midwives on the fetal alcohol syndrome. I think that is a diversion from the problems that they have helped to create, but it gives the industry credibility with the government. We came across an internal industry document, ‘Threats to the Alcohol Industry’, back in the 1970s, which made it clear that the industry was not going to go down the tobacco industry road, simply denying that there were any problems. Anything which we know will reduce alcohol consumption—price, hours, raising drinking ages—the industry and the social aspect organizations oppose. They favour simply education and information, because they know that will not detract from their profits.

‘The industry is the main obstacle to alcohol policy globally . . .’.

EUROCARE AND GAPA

  1. Top of page
  2. STARTING OUT
  3. LEAVING UNIVERSITY
  4. HEADING THE NCA
  5. ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA
  6. RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL
  7. THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES
  8. EUROCARE AND GAPA
  9. References

A: The alcohol industry is a big player throughout Europe. Was this part of the reason for setting up Eurocare?

DR: Yes, it was, although there were also other considerations. The harmonization of taxes was going to create a problem for alcohol taxation in the United Kingdom. In the IAS we saw the problem that would create and we took a deputation to Brussels to put the case. There were only two deputations; the other was from the BMA, and it showed that we really needed to create an organization within the European Union (EU) to watch EU legislation. I developed a very good relationship with the Medical Director of the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism (ANPA), Dr Michel Craplet, and we joined forces to establish the body that came to be known as Eurocare. I chose that name because the internal document from the drink industry revealed that the industry planned to create a social aspect organization called Wecare, so we pre-empted that. I think the first thing that really put us on the map was a report written by my IAS colleague, ‘Counterbalancing the Drink Industry’[9]. The industry's Amsterdam Group had produced a big report on alcohol in the EU [10] which, of course, attacked the control of consumption approach, so we wrote a response which, fortunately, seemed to have a big impact. It proved popular with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe, and it was also noted by officials in the European Commission, including those in the division concerned with indirect taxation. Another success was to obtain the money from the Commission to compile a report on the impact of alcohol harm on the family in all the member countries of the EU. A third was to organize a petition of Members of the European Parliament against alcopops.

A: The next venture was the Global Alcohol Policy alliance (GAPA), which presumably was Eurocare on a global scale?

DR: GAPA is a natural outcome of Eurocare activity, although there is an important distinction. Eurocare was our means of tackling the alcohol issue in relation to a Europe-wide governmental body, which was making decisions and enacting legislation having a direct impact on the alcohol scene in all the Member States. Obviously, there is no equivalent governmental body globally, but there are two other features of the situation which prompted the creation of GAPA. One is that the alcohol industry sees the developing countries as its markets of the future, and it has established its own International Centre for Alcohol Policy in order to gain a hold on alcohol policy development, particularly in these countries. The second is that, while there is no world government there is the WHO, and the industry has tried very hard to become a major influence on what the WHO does in regard to the alcohol issue. We saw the same need globally as there was in Europe to counterbalance the influence of the industry and to protect the WHO from undue meddling in its affairs by the industry; and now WHO is promoting a Global Alcohol Strategy, it needs all the support it can get from NGOs to safeguard the scientific credentials of the strategy.

A: The alcohol scene has been transformed since your early days, in the United Kingdom, in Europe and further afield. In the United Kingdom, alcohol is higher on the political agenda now than at any time since the heyday of the temperance movement. What do you think are the challenges for the future?

DR: The major challenge in the West arises from the failure to create a grass-roots organization and to bring about popular participation in alcohol politics, especially in young people. As I come to the end of my career, I am convinced of the need to hand on the work to a younger generation. There are some positive signs. In 2000, the EU Council of Ministers stated that young people should be involved in the development of alcohol policy and, with the support of the European Youth Forum and the European Commission, the European Alcohol Policy Youth Network has been created. A main challenge is to make the most of the opportunities provided by the development of the WHO Global Alcohol Strategy [11] and the focus on non-communicable diseases. That provides tools that we did not have 10 years ago and, just like the alcohol action plan in Europe, creates the possibility of change. There is real concern at the saturation of the world in alcohol, and if we can embrace these new tools we can make a difference, but there are, of course, pitfalls and obstacles. The power of the industry is something that we have to watch very carefully and we have to expose the strategies of the industry, which would only increase alcohol consumption and problems. We still have to win over the finance departments of government, and there is the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is a great stumbling-block for many of the developing countries, which are having to adopt policies on alcohol in line with WTO thinking.

A: Would the next step be the creation of an international Convention on Alcohol equivalent to the Convention on Tobacco?

DR: I think that, while we have made progress with the alcohol strategy, there is still the problem that the industry will not stop fighting the alcohol and health movement and will continue to demand their rights to sit at the alcohol policy conference table and to decide which policies are implemented, rights to which they are not entitled.

A: Thinking of your long career in the alcohol field, what do you count as your biggest successes?

DR: I think one has to see one's career as a whole. One venture has given birth to the others. I think as one progressed in this field and as one met the political and social situations, one had to find an answer to each situation which would advance the reduction of alcohol problems in society. So I see it as a whole. I cannot isolate them into IAS, Eurocare, GAPA. I have to see it as a whole picture, that the growth and the development is the success, you could not have one without the other.

A: On the assumption that your career is now approaching its end, looking back, has it all been worth it for you?

DR: Sometimes I wish I had persevered with a political career; but I say thank goodness I did not become an MP, because I think I would have been pretty disillusioned with the Labour Party as it is today. Other people tell me I have done a better job outside. I feel that I have been privileged. You cannot have it all ways, and if you were to ask me would I in the end have chosen parliament, rather than what I have actually done and achieved, I think my answer would be I would want to do what I have done. I have had the privilege of being supported by my organization, an independent charity, which has allowed me to achieve being my own man.

Note

The opinions expressed in this interview reflect the views of the interviewee and are not meant to represent the opinions or official positions of any institution or organization the interviewee serves or has served.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. STARTING OUT
  3. LEAVING UNIVERSITY
  4. HEADING THE NCA
  5. ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE NCA
  6. RELAXING ALCOHOL CONTROL
  7. THE INSTITUTE OF ALCOHOL STUDIES
  8. EUROCARE AND GAPA
  9. References
  • 1
    Lord Errol of Hale. Report of the Departmental Committee on Liquor Licensing (Command Paper 5154). London: HMSO; 1972.
  • 2
    Braine B. Report of the Working Party on Alcohol and Work. London: National Council on Alcoholism; 1977.
  • 3
    Department of the Environment, Blennerhassett F. Drinking and Driving: Report of the Departmental Committee (Blennerhassett Report). London: HMSO; 1976.
  • 4
    Advisory Committee on Alcoholism. Report on Prevention. London: DHSS; 1977, and Advisory Committee on Alcoholism; The pattern and range of services for problem drinkers: report. DHSS 1978.
  • 5
    Tuck M., Home Office Research Unit. Alcoholism and Social Policy, Are We on the Right Lines? (Home Office Research Study 65). London: HMSO; 1979.
  • 6
    Bruun K., Edwards G., Lumio M., Mäkelä K., Pan L., Popham R. E. et al. Alcohol Control Policies in Public Health Perspective. New Brunswick, NJ: Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies; 1975.
  • 7
    Royal College of Psychiatrists. Alcohol and alcoholism: the report of the Special Committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. 1979.
  • 8
    Royal College of Physicians. A Great and Growing Evil: The Medical Consequences of Alcohol Abuse. London: Tavistock Publications; 1987.
  • 9
    Eurocare. Counterbalancing the drinks industry. 1995.
  • 10
    Amsterdam Group. Alcoholic beverages and European Society. 1993.
  • 11
    World Health Organization (WHO). Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. 2011.