Drinks industry holds too much sway over the Government, warn MPs

The Government is too close to the drinks industry and needs to adopt a tougher approach to the health problems caused by alcohol, according to an inquiry by MPs which reports today.

The all-party Commons Health Select Committee calls for an independent review of the Coalition's "responsibility deal" with drinks manufacturers, which is regarded as too cosy by health pressure groups.

It accuses ministers of focusing too heavily on the public order problems caused by binge drinking rather than tackling the damage to people's health by a product blamed for 6,600 deaths and 198,000 hospital admissions a year, and which costs the NHS £3.5bn annually.

"The main focus of the [Government's] strategy is the need to address public order issues," the committee's report says. "We agree that these are important, but we believe the health impact of the misuse of alcohol is more insidious and pervasive."

It questions the Coalition's voluntary approach to regulating the industry through the responsibility deal, which gives companies a seat at the table where the Government's stance is shaped. The MPs argue that drinks firms should not expect "brownie points" for taking part and that their participation should be compulsory.

Calling for a study of the agreement by the Public Health England agency, the MPs warn that plans to reduce the strength of some lagers from 5 to 4.8 per cent will not have a significant impact. "If the industry does not bring forward more substantial proposals than this it risks being seen as paying only lip service to the need to reduce the health harms caused by alcohol," they say.

Although the committee backs the Government's plan to bring in a minimum price for alcohol of 40p or 50p a unit, it argues that it should expire unless it is shown to reduce harmful drinking.

It rejects a proposed ban on "multibuy offers" used by supermarkets as "unworkable" and calls for clearer guidance about "safe" drinking levels, saying that measuring alcohol in units is confusing.

The report dismisses as "implausible" the drinks industry's claim that its advertising campaigns promote brands rather than encourage drinking. While it stops short of backing calls by doctors for a total ban on adverts, it calls for a tighter code including curbs on cinema commercials shown to under-18s and sports sponsorship and possibly a French-style ban on TV commercials.

The Portman Group, the social responsibility body for alcohol producers funded by the industry, said: "It is deeply disappointing that they have failed to understand the significance of the innovative unit reduction pledge, supported by all major producers, retailers, and leading wholesalers who have committed to lower the alcohol content of leading brands, and introduce new ranges of lower alcohol products."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Foundation Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are looking for Founda...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?