Speaking at the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) annual conference in London yesterday, Lansley also urged all alcohol companies and retailers, which have not done so already, to sign up to the Responsibility Deal.
Lansley praised the progress made so far with the Responsibility Deal, 110 alcohol companies have signed up so far, the work done by the Portman Group and Community Alcohol Partnerships.
He referred to Diageo’s funding for training midwives, the growing support for the Drinkaware charity and Heineken’s pledge to lowering the alcohol strength of one it’s major brands.
He said: “I’m looking for everybody to sign up (to the Responsibility Deal) and why should they not? If you’re outside the Responsibility Deal, then you really should be explaining why.”
Lansley also made it clear that banning or restricting items should be a last resort in combating irresponsible alcohol use.
“In the past, there has been a tendency for the response of the state to this problem (alcohol abuse) was to ratchet up the regulation and the righteousness,” he said.
“If there’s a problem, there’s a blame game – ban something, restrict it, tell people what to do, wag the finger. That approach should not be our first resort, it should always be our last resort. It’s not in any case a sound basis on which to secure a balanced public health strategy.”
On the topic of minimum pricing, set to come into force in Scotland, Lansley said that the UK government will not be implementing it.
He said: “We do believe, and have made it clear in the proposal in the ban for below cost selling, that pushing alcohol cost is an undesirable activity in itself.”
He added that minimum pricing could have an effect on the lives of lower income consumers who rely on the lower priced alcohol to enjoy their favourite drinks. And he made a point of there being no evidence on minimum pricing changing behaviours.
Meanwhile, WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles said that he will be pushing for duty breaks for lower strength wines of 5.5% ABV to 8.5% ABV.