Lords report ignores decade-long decline in alcohol related harms

A Lords report has suggested that the EU 2006-12 alcohol strategy “achieved little” despite a decade-long decline in alcohol related harms in the UK. The report has called on the EU to allow member states to raise alcohol duty and has also suggested a change to food labelling which would see all alcohol bottles including, as a minimum, the strength, the calorie content, guidelines on safe drinking levels, and a warning about the dangers of drinking when pregnant on its label. The report states, “Voluntary action alone is not enough.”

Chairman of the Committee, Baroness Prashar, said, “The previous EU Alcohol Strategy had the laudable goal of reducing alcohol-related harm, but the EU missed a real opportunity to take effective action in combatting alcohol abuse across all Member States.

She continued, “During our inquiry we heard from manufacturers, retailers and advertisers about the voluntary initiatives they have developed to tackle the harm caused by alcohol abuse. Voluntary action alone is not enough. It must be backed by legislation at EU level, and industry should play a constructive role in bringing this about.”

She also commented on minimum pricing saying, “Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is a highly controversial topic, views are sharply divided, and no Member State currently has a MUP law. In 2012 the Scottish Government, however, decided to introduce MUP, and the UK Government undertook to do the same. Our view is that if MUP proves successful in bringing health benefits to the heaviest drinkers in Scotland, the UK Government should honour the commitment it gave in 2012 and follow suit.

(The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 was passed in June 2012.  It has not yet been implemented due to a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.)

Henry Ashworth, 
Chief Executive, Portman Group comments, “It is very disappointing that this report calls for more red-tape and fails to acknowledge the official statistics that show the decade-long decline in alcohol related harms in the UK. By drinks companies and government working together we are continuing these trends.
Industry has voluntarily taken a billion units of alcohol out of the market, limited the number of units of alcohol in single serve cans and labelled 80% of products with important health information, and over 90% with a warning about drinking when pregnant.
This report proposes spending taxpayers money and government time legislating for what we are already delivering by working in partnership.”