Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Alcohol industry doesn't deserve 'brownie points' for Responsibility Deal, says Health Committee

Published:  26 July, 2012

The drinks industry doesn't deserve "brownie points" for signing up to the Responsibility Deal, says the chair of the Health Select Committee.

The drinks industry doesn't deserve "brownie points" for signing up to the Responsibility Deal, says the chair of the Health Select Committee.

Stephen Dorrell MP believes the trade has done the bare minimum in making commitments under the deal to cut alcohol content in drinks.

The report is dismissive of the steps taken by the trade to reduce the alcohol content in drinks. It states: "We do not believe that reducing the alcohol in some lagers from 5% to 4.8%, for example, will have any significant impact. If the industry does not bring forward more substantial proposals than this it risks being seen as paying only lip service to the need to reduce the health harms caused by alcohol."

"You can tick the box, but it doesn't mean you have achieved the objective," added Dorrell.

Dorrrell, speaking yesterday in Westminster, sidestepped questions about what more the drinks industry can do to tackle the problem. He said rather that the "scale of the problem" needs defining. "The challenge to the industry is what can be done to bring the number of [alcohol-related] deaths down."

He criticised alcohol companies who hadn't committed to the Responsibility Deal, saying the failure to take collective responsibility for health issues caused by alcohol was not "understanding the necessary consequences of the freedom to trade".

However, the report, published today, does acknowledge that "the great majority of citizens enjoy alcoholic products without significant evidence of harms to their health". What's more, it states that "against that background, the supply of alcohol is an entirely legitimate business".

The committee, which conducted its inquiry in response to the government's Alcohol Strategy, supports minimum pricing, but calls for a strict evidence base in setting the level. In addition, the committee recommends that the government must recognise that "setting the price is not a one-off event", and that there should be a sunset clause which can revoke minimum pricing if it is not effective in reducing harmful drinking.

The report also suggests changes to the rules governing alcohol marketing, including taking a closer look at France's Loi Evin, which restricts drinks advertising and sponsorship.

According to Dorrell, the French practices are "attractive" as they are "further down the road" than the UK rules.

Other good news for the wine trade is that the report does not call for a ban on multibuys, saying that the measure would be unnecessary if the minimum unit pricing plan was in place. Dorrell said having spoken to health minister Anne Milton, he hadn't been convinced that there was sufficient evidence. "It doesn't convince us that a ban is desirable or ultimately workable," said Dorrell who believes that retailers would find ways to work around the policy were it introduced, thus bringing it into "disrepute".

If you'd like to share your views on the Health Committee's report, email Gemma McKenna at