WSTA accuses government of ‘empty rhetoric’ if it presses ahead with minimum pricing

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The WSTA’s chief executive has accused the government of “empty rhetoric” if it doesn’t drop its proposal for a minimum unit pricing policy.


Speaking yesterday at the CBI annual conference, Prime Minister David Cameron said the government had got to stop bureaucracy and become more agile to achieve economic growth.
Cameron said the government was “tough” and “radical”, but needed to act faster, “because in this global race you are quick or you’re dead”.


“We are determined to dismantle some of the procedures that have been slowing us down and slowing you down,” Cameron told business leaders.


But the Wine & Spirit Trade Association’s Miles Beale said that for the drinks trade, “the test of whether this is more empty rhetoric from the government will be straightforward”.
“A government intent on stripping out unnecessary regulation and bureaucracy cannot, with any credibility, plough on with a policy of minimum unit pricing,” added Beale.


He described minimum unit pricing as “the very definition of unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation” and said adopting the measure would “surely fail the test of a government intent on throwing ‘everything we’ve got at winning in this global race’”.


“At best it will be entangled in a legal challenge and difficult parliamentary scrutiny for years. At worst it will lead, inevitably, to retaliation against the UK drinks industry in international markets, hampering the sector’s ability to drive growth through much needed exports.”


Beale added that rather than penalise already squeezed consumers, the government should recognise that “there is an improving picture in the UK with total alcohol consumption, average weekly consumption and the proportion of people drinking over the recommended weekly limits all falling”. He said the Public Health Responsibility Deal “is already is already delivering real progress in doing just that and more quickly than through regulation”.


“Rather than wasting time and energy on minimum unit pricing, now would be a good time to quietly drop it and renew the focus on working together to reduce alcohol harm,” said Beale.


Read Beale’s entire comment piece on Harpers here.

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