A set of new pledges has been announced by the government as part of its ‘responsibility deal’ with the alcohol industry. They include an end to the sale of super-strength drinks in large cans and more ‘responsible’ displays and promotions in shops.
There is also a commitment to promoting lower-alcohol products in pubs and bars, and making sure that house wines below 12.5 per cent are always available. Initial funding of £250,000 from the drinks industry to provide alcohol education programmes in schools has also been announced.
The responsibility deal was launched as a partnership between the government, the industry and the voluntary sector, alongside similar arrangements with the food industry and others, and originally announced in the 2010 public health white paper (DDN, 6 December 2010, page 4). Controversial from the start, it was branded ‘the worst possible deal for everyone who wants to see alcohol harm reduced’ by Alcohol Concern (DDN, April 2011, page 4), with the charity refusing to sign up – along with the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and the British Liver Trust – despite government claims that the arrangement would deliver ‘faster and better’ results than legislation.
Other organisations including Cancer Research and the Faculty of Public Health later withdrew from the responsibility deal network following the government’s announcement that it was not planning to introduce a minimum unit price (DDN, August 2013, page 4), and although the government has said the aim is to remove a billion units of alcohol from the market, a recent report on the progress of the deal found that the reduction so far had been a quarter of that (DDN, May, page 4).
‘Alcohol-fuelled harm costs taxpayers £21bn a year. It is therefore right that the alcohol industry is taking action to help reduce this burden, without penalising those that drink responsibly,’ said home secretary Theresa May of the new arrangements. ‘The government welcomes the progress the alcohol industry has made so far in responding to the challenge we set them. We now look forward to seeing the positive impact of these pledges and continuing to work with industry to explore what else can be done to tackle alcohol abuse.’
‘As responsible businesses, we are determined to play our part and have set out a whole new programme of voluntary actions in response to the challenge set by the home secretary,’ said Portman Group chief executive Henry Ashworth. ‘Working in partnership with business is a great way to get positive change happening quickly in towns and cities throughout the UK.’