Drinks industry holds too much sway over the Government, warn MPs
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Thursday 19 July 2012
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."
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer released: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 3 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel may have committed war crimes, says UN human rights chief
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...
£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...
£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...