Church criticises the Government's alcohol 'responsibility deal'

The Methodist Church has criticised the Government's"responsibility deal" to tackle alcohol abuse, saying that itprioritises the drinks industry over the vulnerable.

Rachel Lampard, Public Issues Team Leader for the Methodist Church,said:"We are totally unconvinced that the Government's proposed'responsibility deal' on alcohol regulation will be effective inreducing the problem of harmful drinking."

The deal, announced today, covers voluntary agreements with thedrinks industry on matters such as promotions and labelling. Sixmedical organisations, including the BMA and Alcohol Concern, havewalked away from this deal on the grounds that it favours thedrinks industry, and places no limits on pricing oradvertising.

"It offers no measurable criteria for harm reduction and haslimited requirements for action on the part of the industry," saidRachel. "This is undoubtedly a deal that prioritises the drinksindustry over the vulnerable, giving the government little power toenforce any constructive action."

"Medical bodies have consistently argued that the increasedaffordability and availability of cheap, strong alcohol in recentdecades, is the main driver of the UK's problem drinking culture,and subsequent health and crime problems. Alongside these bodies,we will continue to call for a minimum unit price for alcohol.Research by Sheffield University in 2008 found that a fixed priceof 40p per unit would only cost moderate drinkers an extra £20 ayear as opposed to £200 for harmful drinkers, but would reduceincidents of crime by 16,000 per year, saving at least £17 millionin police, NHS and other costs.

"We have an opportunity to reverse the devastating effects of yearsof under-regulation of the drinks market. Pledges to put alcoholunit values on labels and promote responsible drinking are likelyto be totally undermined if not accompanied by limits toadvertising and a broader rethink of alcohol pricing. If theGovernment means to keep its promises around harm reduction,alcohol policy should be informed strongly by medical evidence andnot sidelined by the pressures of the industry."