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MP’s case for the defence about new alcohol report

Thursday 19th July 2012 (Andrew Griffiths)

BURTON’S MP has attacked a report predicted to conclude the alcohol industry is not doing enough to foster a culture of responsible drinking.

Andrew Griffiths spoke after leaks suggested the parliamentary inquiry would find the industry had broken pledges to act and should face tougher regulation unless it changed tack.

“I don’t think it’s true to say the industry is not working hard to bring about more responsible drinking,” said the Tory, chairman of the parliamentary beer group.

“A vast amount of time and effort has been put in by brewers to make the Responsibility Deal (agreed between the Government and food and drinks industry) deliver the kind of changes the Government wants to see.

“However, my concern is that the issue lies with problem drinks rather than the industry as a whole and I would like to see more work done on the issue of vodka and slammer-type drinks, which are more popular with young people.”

Mr Griffiths rejected what reports suggest is likely to be among the key findings of the Commons health select committee inquiry into the Government’s strategy on alcohol, likely to be published after MPs’ summer break.

The MP, however, wholeheartedly endorsed another of the group’s forecast recommendations — backing for a minimum statutory price limit for alcohol of between 40p and 50p a unit.

“I fully support proposals for a minimum pricing of alcohol,” he said.

“When you can buy strong cider cheaper than water we have a problem with the pricing mechanism used by supermarkets.

“Nobody wants to hit the occasional drinker, but such discounted prices send the wrong message and encourage young people to drink more and more.”

Mr Griffiths said he had also been frustrated that brewers ploughed vast amounts of money into developing and marketing a brand, ‘only for supermarkets to drive down the prices and sell it at huge discounts in order to get people in’.

Ministers introduced the Responsibility Deal in a bid to persuade the food and drink industry to make voluntary changes instead of being forced to change their behaviour.

According to a report in the Sunday Telegraph, the committee is expected to acknowledge changes made by the food industry while highlighting ‘limited’ action by drinks firms.

Evidence heard by the MPs showed alcohol kills almost 15,000 people in Britain each year and costs the UK economy more than £21 billion, including £3.5 billion to the NHS.

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