Diageo boss rejects idea of minimum pricing for alcohol

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Drinks giant diageo Minimum pricing Drink

Paul Walsh, chief executive of drinks giant Diageo, today labelled proposals to introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol as "clumsy". Speaking...

Paul Walsh, chief executive of drinks giant Diageo, today labelled proposals to introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol as "clumsy".

Speaking as the Guinness producer announced first half results Walsh said: "The government's own figures show that average consumption is down by 11 per cent, which would be at odds with the introduction of minimum pricing. It's just clumsy."

The government had enough to focus on "without tinkering about with this", he added.

Stewart Fletcher, president of Diageo International, which includes the UK market, said minimum pricing would prove to be a "blunt instrument" in reducing abuse drinking, one which would only serve to penalise responsible drinkers.

"A total population approach like minimum pricing would in our view be inappropriate. If the recent select committee's recommendations went through you'd see responsible consumers who like a drink having to fork out £25 for a bottle of Gordon's."

"We're putting our efforts [to reduce alcohol abuse] behind education initiatives and things like the Campaign for Smarter Drinking. That's the only long-term solution."

Looking at trading in the coming months Walsh said he expected Diageo's performance in the UK market to remain flat, but that in the current economic environment 'flat' was "pretty good".

And following the row following last year's announcement to close a number of bottling plants in Scotland with the loss of around 900 jobs, Walsh said the company had no more plans to restructure the business beyond what had already been made public.

But he warned that the group could revisit the subject, if economic conditions in certain markets required more action.

The chief executive also refused to rule out moving the company away from the UK if taxes, particularly those of the corporate variety, become too high.

"We like operating out of the UK, but if taxes, both personal and corporate, rise then we will look at our options.

"The government should not take us or any other multinational organisation for granted," he added.

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