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Health Secretary calls on all drinks firms to sign Responsibility Deal

Published:  14 September, 2011

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has called on all drinks firms to sign up to the Responsibility Deal.

Speaking today at the WSTA annual conference at Bafta in Piccadilly, Lansley said that although 110 drinks companies have committed to alcohol pledges so far, he was "looking for everyone to sign up - why would they not?".

Lansley added that customers would soon expect that firms sign up to the deal. He praised the work of supermarket Asda in pledging £1 million in additional funding to combat underage drinking, as well as removing alcohol from lobbies. He urged other retailers to follow suit.

Commenting on the minimum pricing legislation set to be implemented in Scotland, Lansley said he was strongly in favour of evidence-based policy making, and thought that the policy could have a "potentially regressive" effect on lower income consumers. He added that he wasn't confident that the move would have any effect on drinking habits, saying: "I don't think we're in a position to see what the behavioural response to minimum price alcohol policy would be."

Meanwhile, WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles, said UK devolution meant we are now seeing the "breaking up" of the UK as a single market. "Scotland is off doing its own thing with restrictions on promotions, and minimum pricing," he said. He said Scottish consumers were likely to be "bemused by changes foisted on them on October 1", when multi-buy offers and discount case deals will be banned.

Beadles pointed out that Northern Ireland would observe what was happening in Scotland before taking any decisions, adding that its policy was likely to be most influenced by activities in the Republic of Ireland, given the impact on corss-border trading.

For a full report on the WSTA 2011 conference, see Harpers 23 September issue.