Speaking at an event in Parliament last night, where brewers showcased a range of 2.8% ABV beers, the minister praised the industry for the quality and flavour of its products.
Milton, the first health minister to speak at an event of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “I would like to say congratulations to the industry. We are working in a very, very cynical environment at the moment where nobody believes we can do anything on alcohol consumption unless we price it out of the market. Finland would suggest that doesn’t work.”
She added: “As a government we do not want to be killjoys but we do have some health problems. We do have a problem with alcohol but it is complicated."
She admitted the Government is aware of the discrepancy between supermarket prices and pub prices and is “trying to do something about it”.
She said it is “staggering how cheap” some of the supermarkets are selling alcohol and recognised that pre-loading presents the licensed trade with a “big problem”.
“One of the difficulties at the moment is actually getting out in the press exactly what the figures bear out. Over half of people do not drink above the Government’s recommended guidelines and in fact 12-15% abstain all together," she said. "The problem we have is around people who do drink to excess - so when they drink we need them to drink less alcohol in every pint.”
“We are supportive of the pub industry, we are supportive of people having a good time. We don’t want to penalise the majority because of the minority. But we have to accept the challenge and we all have a responsibility. We will be putting out across Government our alcohol strategy later this year and I hope it will hit that right balance."