Is the Government too Influenced by Supermarkets?

The UK Government is ‘too influenced’ by supermarkets and the drinks industry according to a new Report issued by MPs. has reported that the the Commons Health Committee said the drinks industry and supermarkets hold more power over the government than health experts and called for a minimum price for alcohol, a rise in duty and much tighter regulations.

As always you have to read between the lines and there are a few things that worry me about the recommendations in this Report . . .

In the Report the average moderate drinker would pay 11p more per week for alcohol if a minimum price of 40p per unit was set and MPs reckon this would force a switch to weaker wines and beers.

To my mind wine in particular carries enough duty on it. VAT has just gone back up to 17.5% and wine lovers are penalised far too much.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said that the Report “is just part of the concerted campaign by elements of the health lobby to punish millions of hard-working people while doing
nothing to tackle the problem few.”

The other recommendations included the mandatory labelling of drinks with warnings and details of units, restrictions on advertising and promotions and a ban on alcohol ads on social networking websites.

Given the fiasco that France has just been through with alcohol very nearly being banned completely on the internet via their own Health Lobby’s use of the The Evin Law of 1991.

will the ban on alcohol ads on social networking sites and restrictions on promotions be the foot in the door to this sort of debacle? The Evin Law was passed before the internet in France really took off and was supposed to control the advertising of alcohol and tobacco.

It was used to try to wipe alcohol off the web and resulted in restricting wine producers and châteaux to the point that some did not develop websites to promote and inform the world about their wines. This law was outrageously severe in a country where the “passion” for wine is intense. Thankfully this law was relaxed last year.

The other soap box that the Government is on at the moment is the units system – the Report said that it is not widely known that there are about nine units in a bottle of 13% wine. Apparently it is thought that less than 10% of men and 20% of women know their current safe recommended daily alcohol allowance.

How dumb do they think the public are? Talk about a Nanny State! The Opposition has announced plans to scrap the units system and under their new proposals producers would be required to print the actual number of centilitres of pure alcohol contained in each drink, replacing the current system of units.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that it made sense “to provide information for consumers about alcohol in a way that can easily be related to specific drinks. We welcome steps to encourage consumers to make informed choices and take responsibility for their own behaviour.

We believe that policies to address alcohol misuse are most likely to succeed if they focus on problem drinkers rather than particular products.

Evidence from other countries suggests that higher taxes and prices for certain drinks do not change the behaviour of those who misuse alcohol.”

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