Drinks industry takes a hold on government alcohol policy

 

The alcohol industry has tightened its grip on a key government policy-making committee that is responsible for reducing the harm of excessive drinking.

Click HERE to Britain's drinking habits graphic (31 kb)

Medical experts are alarmed at the sharp increase in drinks industry representatives on the cross-departmental committee that sets the national alcohol strategy, since the Coalition Government came to power last year.

The name of the committee has also been changed from the "Alcohol Strategy Group" to the "Government and Partners Working Group on Alcohol", reflecting its new commercial bias.

Minutes of meetings of the group before and after the election, seen by The Independent, show that drinks industry representatives in attendance rose from an average of one or two at each meeting in 2009-10 to some six or seven in 2010-11.

Among the members of the cross-government group, chaired by the Home Office's director of drugs, alcohol and partnerships, are representatives of Heineken, Bacardi, Molson Coors, the British Beer and Pub Association, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and the supermarket Morrisons.

Experts said the Government was right to consult the industry about its plans but was wrong to include it on policy-making committees. It created an insuperable conflict of interest as "making money from alcohol sales is at odds with reducing harm".

The minutes were obtained by the BBC Panorama programme which tonight exposes the growing toll of harm caused to young people by alcohol. Anne Milton, a Health minister interviewed by Panorama, appears unaware of the existence of the group.

Yet in a letter dated 14 April 2011 to the British Medical Association, Paul Burstow, her ministerial colleague, says: "When you met Anne Milton you discussed a future alcohol strategy and we are developing plans to support that. This was discussed recently at the Cross-Government and Alcohol Partners Group."

The Department of Health will publish a revised alcohol strategy later this year. In March, six major health groups did not sign up to its "responsibility deal" on alcohol, covering voluntary deals with the drinks industry on matters like price, labels and marketing.

The organisations, including the British Medical Association and Alcohol Concern, said ministers were soft on the industry and demanded the agreement have legislative teeth.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said yesterday the Government must decide if it wants to get to grips with alcohol harm or let the drinks industry call the shots. "It can't have it both ways," he said.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We are committed to challenging the assumption that the only way to change people's behaviour is through adding to rules and regulations."

The spokesman added that the Coalition was keen to "work with the industry on voluntary agreements to get speedier results".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea