The amount of alcohol consumed by people in Britain is in decline, according to industry figures released yesterday which show average intake falling for the second successive year.

The 3.3 per cent year-on-year dip recorded in 2006 was a record for the past 15 years, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said. The figures relate to total alcohol consumption in pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants and also at home.

An average of 8.9 litres of alcohol per person was consumed last year, compared with 9.4 litres in 2004, according to the figures.

Beer makes up almost half – 43 per cent – of the country's consumption, with 29 per cent drunk as wine and 20 per cent as spirits. Cider and other drinks account for the remaining 8 per cent.

Despite the British penchant for beer, the drink is, in fact, itself proportionately on the decline. In 1990 it accounted for 57 per cent of alcohol consumed, with spirits on 22 per cent and wine just 18 per cent.

"Although it is too early to say if this is a long-term trend, these are certainly very interesting figures in view of the intense public debate in recent months about Britain's drinking habits," said Mark Hastings, BBPA's director of communications.

The BBPA's figures are based on data from HM Revenue & Customs and are checked against sales data from BBPA members, which account for 98 per cent of beer brewed in the UK.

The news, which appears to contradict assumptions about drinking trends comes a week after Belfast was revealed to be the "most alcoholic city" in the UK. The average man in the Northern Irish city spends a total of £40,939 in his lifetime on booze, according to statistics published in the Men's Health magazine. Almost half of those from Belfast questioned in the poll admitted "binge drinking" at least once a week. In Birmingham, just 15 per cent admitted to drinking on a similar scale.