Drinks leaders reject MPs' criticism

08 January, 2010

The drinks industry has rejected claims by MPs that its products are being sold too cheaply and that it needs more regulation by government.

The Health Select Committee has recommended a 50p minimum price per unit and also wants tax rises on spirits and white cider, along with curbs on advertising and promotion.

Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said the recommendations would punish ordinary consumers and not stop problem drinking, with knock-on effects for jobs.

“Government statistics show that 7% of the population drink 33% of the alcohol in the UK,” he said. “On that basis we should be focusing our efforts on tackling problem drinkers rather than punishing the many.

“What’s needed is tough action against those who misuse alcohol with help for those who have a genuine health problem and mandatory school education about alcohol so that people understand the risks.

“The drinks industry is working in partnership with local authorities and others to combat under-age purchase and possession of alcohol and investing in government-endorsed campaigns to persuade consumers to change their behaviour.”

Campbell Evans, government and consumer affairs director at the Scotch Whisky Association, said the health committee plans would damage the economy.

Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, said he was “extremely disappointed by the committee’s divisive approach”.

He added: “This report represents yet another attempt by aggressive sections of the health lobby to hijack alcohol policy-making. It seeks to marginalise the role of industry in helping to tackle the problem of alcohol misuse.”

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