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WSTA's Miles Beale urges trade to do more following minimum pricing success

Published:  30 August, 2013

Miles Beale, the chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Asssociation, sets out a series of fresh challenges to the drinks industry on today's following the success of its campaign to prevent the introduction of minimum unit pricing on alcohol.

He writes in today's Opinion section that whilst the trade should take great heart from the government's decision to listen to its advice and not introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, it cannot rest on its laurels and needs to urgently address other key issues that are on the government's political radar.

In his exclusive column he said: "The WSTA-led campaign was successful. The government acknowledged that there was a lack of evidence to support MUP and the proposed ban on multi-buy sales. While a theoretical debate over minimum unit pricing continues it is time to look beyond minimum unit pricing and take a closer look at the alternatives put forward in the government's response to the Alcohol Strategy consultation."

In particular the industry must be ready for a ban on below cost cost selling at the rate of duty plus VAT - a move it supports - which he believes will be introduced in spring 2014. The WSTA, he added, "will be working with the Home Office to ensure that the ban is workable and its implementation smooth".

Beale sets out other areas in which he thinks the industry needs to being doing more. They include:

* the need for the industry to do more in supporting initiatives such as Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAPs) and Best Bar None.

* to get behind more schemes that allow drinks companies to have an impact in their local area.

* to deliver on the pledges it has made to comply with the targets of the Responsibility Deal. This includes, he said, "pledges to ensure that over 80% of products will have clear unit content, Chief Medical Officer's guidelines and a warning about drinking when pregnant by December 2013; and the removal of 1 billion units of alcohol sold annually from the market by December 2015".

* to continue to fund public awareness campaigns and education programmes that highlight the dangers of alcohol misuse. "The government," he warns, "has said it would like to see more companies sign up to the new education pledge, and the more that the industry can offer in this area the better." Moves to support the continued funding of Drinkaware are a necessary step in the right direction, said Beale.

* the need to demonstrate that the industry is willing to think outside the box is Beale's final challenge. He calls on the trade to be more "innovative and responsive to the challenges we face and the priorities where we can actively support government in delivering its strategy. One example is Challenge 25 - the voluntary retailer led scheme that requires those who look under 25 to present a valid ID - which has dramatically reduced underage sales."

He concludes: "Reducing alcohol-related harm requires the collective goodwill of a range of partners. I am confident that the industry is in a strong position to play a leading role. Arguably, our members have never stopped leading the way and I hope this is recognised by government."