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Diageo slates government's alcohol crackdown plans

Published:  01 September, 2008

Drinks giant Diageo has slammed Scottish government plans to combat alcohol misuse and is calling for a system of "co-regulation", where the industry works alongside the Government to regulate alcohol comsumption.

Drinks giant Diageo has slammed Scottish government plans to combat alcohol misuse and is calling for a system of "co-regulation", where the industry works alongside the Government to regulate alcohol comsumption.

Scottish government proposals, which are currently under consultation, include banning the sale of alcohol to under 21's, a minimum price of alcohol per unit and separate checkouts for the purchase of alcohol in supermarkets to deter impulse buys.

Diageo has criticised the proposals, saying that it has offered "no evidence" to support its view that minimum pricing will reduce alcohol related harm. Higher prices may affect consumption, says Diageo, but not necessarily among the groups the Scottish government wishes to target.

Benet Slay, managing director of Diageo Great Britain, said: "We are disillusioned with the Scottish government's paper and frustrated that Government is trying to place responsibility for tackling alcohol misuse on the shoulders of the drinks industry and thus failing to recognise that everyone has the responsibility - individuals, government, civil society and industry.

"We believe the most effective approach to promoting the highest standards of responsible behaviour, across industry and for every consumer, is through a fair, transparent and effective system of co-regulation."

Diageo's consultation response outlines a new system of co-regulation for alcohol promotions. It says that the government should set overall objectives and mandatory standards across a range of alcohol issues whilst the industry should be free to develop a "sensible and easy-to-work system of regulation and practice to meet government's objectives."

Continues Slay: "We recognise that the good work of the majority in industry is undermined by some irresponsible promotions conducted by a minority, but if government introduces a mechanism to regulate price, they risk penalising the responsible drinker without specifically targeting those who misuse alcohol. Instead, we firmly believe that co-regulation can provide a transparent, fair and effective framework for enforcement to root out bad practice.

"We also strongly believe that individuals are responsible and accountable for their own behaviour and those in their care. Policy should not provide excuses to individuals who cause harm to themselves or others and the responsible drinker should not pay the price for those who misuse alcohol."

Below is Diageo's response to the Scottish government's consultation paper in full. The consultation closes on September 9.

? Creating separate checkouts for alcohol sales is unnecessary and would be ineffective. Existing regulations already provide restrictions on when and to whom alcohol can be sold. Greater enforcement is key.

? The focus of policy should be on patterns of alcohol consumption, not national volumes, and should be targeted at groups most at risk of alcohol misuse.

? A one-size-fits-all blanket ban on promotions is not likely to be effective in targeting action where it is needed most and would also be unfair to the responsible majority of consumers who responsibly enjoy the price benefits of promotions.

? Support for government's intention to review current advice to parents and carers.

? Government should not raise the minimum age for off-sales purchases to 21 in Scotland. It is disproportionate and unfair, and likely to penalise the majority of responsible young adults aged 18 to 21, in order to prevent under 18s from buying off-sales alcohol, either directly or via proxies.

? Better early interventions and better education among children and young people should be the priority policy for the 18-21 age group, in order to effect an enduring shift in their perceptions of alcohol consumption and give them a better understanding of the effects of alcohol misuse.

? Government should not introduce a 'social responsibility fee'. The idea of an additional charge solely on licensed premises reinforces the notion that the responsibility for alcohol misuse rests solely with those who sell and serve it, and not with the small minority who consume it to excess.