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Trade defends itself against MPs' attack

Published:  08 January, 2010

MPs have attacked the drinks industry's lack of action in curbing problem drinking and demanded tougher regulation on the trade, including a 50p-a-unit minimum price.

The Commons Health Select Committee is also calling for duty rises on spirits and white cider, and wants to see more restrictions on promotions and advertising.

The widely-publicised criticism has once again drawn a defiant response from trade leaders.

Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: "There are no surprises here. This select committee report is just part of the concerted campaign by elements of the health lobby for a range of policies which will punish millions of hard-working people while doing nothing to tackle the problem few.

"The truth is that a minimum price of 50p or tax rises would force prices up for responsible consumers while proposed advertising restrictions amount to an effective ban which would put jobs at risk in the media and advertising industries."

Beadles said efforts should be focused on alcohol abusers, and on improved alcohol education in schools.

Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, was equally scathing.

"There is no evidence to warrant a disproportionate focus on spirits," he said. "The committee's recommendations on duty, were they to be adopted, could potentially double the price of a bottle Bell's to around £23."  

He added: "This report represents yet another attempt by aggressive sections of the health lobby to hijack alcohol policy-making. It seeks to marginalise the role of industry in helping to tackle the problem of alcohol misuse."