Anand: crackdown on wild drinking

By Rooney Anand

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcohol, Minimum price, Alcoholic beverage

Anand: calling for a crackdown on alcohol
Anand: calling for a crackdown on alcohol
Chief executive of Greene King Rooney Anand explains why the UK needs a minimum price and restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

You would expect me — the chief executive of a pub retailer and brewer that owns pubs up and down the country — to champion the glorious role that alcohol has had in britain's cultural life and social history.

But it saddens me that there's more to alcohol than enjoying a pint of Old Speckled Hen outside a country pub.

I am deeply concerned by the profound, negative impact that alcohol misuse is having on society. most people drink alcohol in moderation, but irresponsible drinking is contributing to rising levels of antisocial behaviour and alcohol-related health issues, such as liver disease — one of the only significant diseases to have increased in incidence in the past 20 years in the UK.

I also fear that if no attempt is made to solve this growing culture of irresponsible drinking, then the alcohol industry is likely to face punitive sanctions.

Such a crackdown would not just hurt the profits of companies such as mine — it would be detrimental to the hundreds of thousands of people who work in pubs, restaurants and breweries, and to the millions of our customers who enjoy, rather than abuse, drink.

Government support

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have called for a new kind of politics and, echoing that theme, I would like to see a concerted effort to address this important issue. There has been a lot of speculation and conjecture about the causes of irresponsible drinking and what should be done to solve the problem.

One thing, however, is clear. The industry does not have all the answers and we cannot wave a magic wand to conjure up a solution overnight.

Nevertheless, there are things that we as an industry can do here and now, with the support of our government, to tackle binge-drinking. I would like to see a minimum price set for the sale of alcohol.

It is a basic law of economics that price is a big factor in influencing demand, so it must make sense that setting a realistic minimum price will discourage bulk-buying drinks.

Restrictions on sales

Furthermore, I would like to see greater restriction across the industry on the purchase of alcohol, to ensure responsible retailing. These could include, for example, more stringent legislation banning the sale of alcohol to drunk people and more restrictions on the times of day you can buy alcohol.

In real terms alcohol has become cheaper and its consumption patterns have become markedly different from those in the past, with more people drinking at home and in public places and a wider range of alcohol readily available at low prices.

The deregulation of the licensing laws — it is now easier to obtain a licence and you can stay open much later than in the past — has made alcohol more available but also its consumption harder to be policed. Both factors have made it too easy for younger drinkers, who are often less well off, and for those with dependency issues to buy and consume excessive amounts.

New code

I would like to see an industry code spanning producers and retailers (both on and off-trade) with full government backing, designed to make changes that would have a real impact — both to the real price of alcohol, via a realistic minimum price per unit, and restrictions on its sale.

The code itself should, in my view, cover such aspects as promotions, pricing, times of sale and restrictions on who you can sell to. It does not have to be mandatory, but compliance should be made public and there should be consequences fo those who don't comply.

I would also like to see the Government return a fixed amount each year from the substantial revenues generated from duties on drink to fund a long-term programme to change cultural attitudes through advertising, NHS educational leaflets and more rigorous monitoring of alcohol abuse at schools and in the workplace.

We need to avoid being sidetracked by arguments between publicans and supermarkets, each pointing the finger at who is to blame.

Instead, we all need to come together — pubs, retailers, producers, clubs, everyone involved in the sale of alcohol.

If we can all band together to curb problem drinking, it will allow ordinary drinkers to carry on enjoying the liquid element of British culture that is so dear to may of us.

Related topics: Legislation

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