MPs demand an increase in the minimum price of alcohol

Commons committee says Government has failed to control drinks industry

The drinks industry depends for its profits on people drinking harmfully or hazardously who between them consume three-quarters of all the alcohol sold in Britain, a committee of MPs will say today. Accusing ministers of a "failure of will" over controlling the industry, they will point out that if people drank responsibly, within the limits advised by medical organisations, sales of alcohol would plummet by 40 per cent.

But health warnings about the dangers of excessive drinking are drowned out by an industry that peddles myths to promote its sales, according to the MPs. In a scathing analysis of the stranglehold which the drinks industry has over the Government and the nation, the all-party Commons health select committee will accuse ministers of cosying up to the firms that dominate the market.

It calls for tough measures to curb alcohol consumption, including a minimum price of at least 40p per unit compared with supermarket prices that are as low as 10p a unit, a rise in duty, independent regulation of alcohol promotion and mandatory labelling.

The idea of a minimum price, aimed principally at supermarket promotions where beer can cost less than water, was first raised by the Government's chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson last year but was immediately rejected by Gordon Brown because, he claimed, it would penalise moderate drinkers.

The health committee will flatly reject this argument as a myth fostered by the alcohol lobby, saying that at 40p a unit it would cost a moderate drinker consuming the average six units weekly (three pints of ordinary bitter) 11p more a week than at present. A woman drinking 15 units a week, equivalent to one and a quarter bottles of wine, could buy her weekly total of alcohol for £6.

Kevin Barron, chairman of the committee said: "The facts about alcohol are shocking. Successive governments have failed to tackle the problem and it is now time for bold government. Even small reductions in the number of people using alcohol could save the NHS millions. What is required is fundamental cultural change. Only this way are we likely to reduce the dangerous numbers of young people drinking their lives away."

One in 10 of the population consumes almost half (44 per cent) of all the alcohol drunk. Consumption has soared in recent decades and three times as much is now drunk per head as in the middle of the last century. Alcohol is estimated to cause 30,000 to 40,000 deaths a year.

It is calculated that a minimum price of 50p a unit would save more than 3,000 lives a year. But the response of successive governments had "ranged from the non-existent to the ineffectual", the committee will say.

Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, the world's largest beer, wine and spirits firm, said: "This report represents yet another attempt by aggressive sections of the health lobby to hijack alcohol policy-making."

Public health minister Gillian Merron said: "Alcohol is an increasing challenge to people's health – we are working hard to reverse the trend and are constantly seeking better ways to tackle it."

Suggested Topics
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future