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MPs and health bodies form anti-drinks lobby

Published:  23 July, 2008

UK: Leading health organisations are joining together to counter the influence of the drinks trade on government and to push for measures to curb binge drinking.

The Royal College of Physicians is heading a coalition that aims to secure the support of MPs.

It is calling for a 10% hike in alcohol taxation and government-regulation of the drinks industry.

Measures could include strict warnings on alcohol advertising and promotions, stating that "alcohol is harmful."

Altogether, 21 bodies, including Alcohol Concern and the British Liver Trust, are coming together in the Alcohol Health Alliance.

MPs said to be involved include Sandra Gidley, Linda Walto, Kelvin Hopkins, John Bercow, David Amess and Mark Durkan, although they are yet to be confirmed.

The alliance plans a launch in late October or early November in conjunction with a BBC survey looking at the availability and use of services for those suffering from alcohol-related illnesses.

An Alcohol Concern spokesman told Harpers: "We want the alliance to become as effective as the drinks industry's trade bodies and we plan to influence the government by gaining support of MPs."

The announcement follows NHS official figures released this week showing an increase in emergency hospital admissions.

A Department of Health commissioned report also concluded middle class drinkers were consuming so much alcohol, they were putting their health at "significant risk'.

But The Times has cast doubt on the acccuracy of the DoH research with its reports on Saturday that the guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years, were "plucked out of the air" as an "intelligent guess".

Sandra Gidley, Liberal Democrat MP for Romse, whose Alcohol Harm Reduction Bill is currently going through Parliament, said she is in discussions with interested parties to lobby for change in alcohol laws.

Her bill calls for price controls, a watershed on alcohol advertising on TV and in cinemas.

David Poley, Portman Group chief executive, said: "We share the concerns of these organisations about levels of alcohol misuse but their plans would do little to improve the situation."

Jeremy Beadles, WSTA chief executive, added: "This Alliance is being formed at a time that alcohol consumption in the UK has dropped by 5.3 per cent over the past two years."

Members of the alliance include the Royal College of Physicians, which will chair the Alliance, Action on Addiction, Alcohol and Health Research Trust, College of Emergency Medicine, Institute of Alcohol Studies, the Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, and the Royal College of Surgeons.