Government accused of collusion with drinks industry over minimum pricing

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Drinks industry Scotch whisky Public health

Gilmore accuses the drinks industry of having high level access to Government ministers
Gilmore accuses the drinks industry of having high level access to Government ministers
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has accused the Government of having a ‘cosy relationship’ with the drinks industry which scuppered plans to introduce minimum pricing.

The BMJ claims its own investigation reveals the “extraordinary level of access” granted to the alcohol industry.

The organisation has accused the Government of “deplorable practices” that contributed to its decision to reverse its commitment to a minimum unit price for alcohol.

In an open letter published today, senior doctors and health campaigners say this new information “serves to fuel fears that big business is trumping public health concerns in Westminster” and they urge the government to “stop dancing to the tune of the drinks industry and prioritise the health of the public.”

Industry meetings

The BMJ said it has discovered that since the Coalition took power in May 2010, the Department of Health has had at least 130 meetings with representatives of the alcohol industry. It claims very few of which have been publicly documented.

The BMJ highlighted a meeting on 12 February 2013 - six days after the close of the government’s consultation on the level at which minimum pricing should be set  – between public health minister Anna Soubry and alcohol industry representatives to discuss their “deep concern” about the impending regulation.

The Government announced its policy change on 17 July 2013 with a commitment to a ban on the sale of alcohol at below-cost price.

All-party parliamentary groups

The BMJ has also examined the activities of three all-party parliamentary groups for the beer, spirits and wine industries and said it discovered evidence of their extensive involvement with the alcohol sector.

The BMJ highlighted records showing that the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, which has members including 300 MPs and 100 Lords as members, received £40,000 in donations from eight companies, including Heineken, Greene King, Diageo, and Molson Coors last year.

BMJ also said that despite the fact that the All-Party Scotch Whisky and Spirits Group declares no funding or other benefits its secretariat and other services are provided by the Scotch Whisky Association, which is opposed to minimum pricing.

'High-level access'

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, special adviser on alcohol to the Royal College of Physicians and chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK said: “The drinks industry continues to have high-level access to Government ministers and officials while no forum currently exists for the public health community to put forward its case in an environment free from vested interests .”

With deaths from liver disease rapidly rising and teenagers now presenting with advanced liver failure, the Government has a duty to realise its commitment to introduce minimum pricing .”

Related topics Legislation

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