Controversial call for watered-down drinks

Health minister Anne Milton has called for alcoholic drinks in the UK to be watered down as part of government efforts to tackle binge drinking.

The controversial proposals will put her at odds with the industry and would cause legal difficulties when it comes to the classification of certain drinks.

Under European Union rules, for example, any European vodka must be a minimum 37.5% abv. The same law applies to any drink calling itself “gin”.

Elsewhere, both the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988 and EU legislation specify a minimum bottling strength of 40% abv for Scotch whisky.

Milton, however, said the coalition government was determind to see a “significant” reduction in the number of units in beer, wines and spirits across the board.

Ministers are now hoping for a voluntary agreement from the drinks industry to water down their products.

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate, Milton told MPs that the government wanted to “remove a significant number of units of alcohol from the UK market through changes in how alcohol is produced and sold”.

She added: “Quality above quantity is something we’re aiming to do. We can’t turn this problem around overnight but we’re deadly serious about a deadly problem.”

Milton clearly has not recognised the efforts of many major drinks companies to reduce their alcoholic content. Brewer AB InBev has already agreed to make small reductions in the alcohol content of its products, with major brands such as Budweiser, Becks and Stella Artois seeing their abv cut from 5% to 4.8% last month.

Diageo has also announced the UK-wide roll-out of Guinness Mid-Strength, with an abv of just 2.8%.

Likewise major wine brands such as First Cape and Banrock Station have similarly released low-alcohol wines to help drinkers cut down on their alcohol intake.

Department of Health sources have also confirmed that one of the ideas under consideration is the introduction of higher taxation for stronger alcoholic drinks, while Prime Minister David Cameron is still firmly behind the idea of introducing a minimum pricing scheme which would stop the sale of alcohol at below 40p to 50p a unit in shops and supermarkets.

However, as has been noted on many occasions, such a scheme would more than likely be illegal under EU rules.

 

8 Responses to “Controversial call for watered-down drinks”

  1. Peter Bowyer says:

    The Nanny State has been re-born with a vengance. The coalition government are now no different to their predecessors in their wish to rule and control every aspect of our daily lives.

    We used to be a free country where the population could go about unhindered by petty bureaucracies and – provided we didn’t impinge on the well-being and quiet enjoyment of life of others – no action was required. There is absolutely no reason why this should not continue to be the case for the vast majority of the country and its population but yet again the majority are having the endure the punishment of over-bearing regulation which is only required for the tiny minority.

    When will punishment start to fit the crime? When will the punishment only be meated out to the guilty?

    We need a revolution but I just don’t have the time, nor the energy, to start one – too busy trying to pay all of my lovely taxes to keep the great unwashed in booze and fags…

  2. Julie McGowan says:

    Minimum Pricing is one thing -and it is something I agree would be very helpful in tackling the problems we have in Scotland – and in terms of ‘at Home Drinking’ would help push the business out of the Supermarkets and back into our pubs. (Where there are staff who tell you when you stop if you don’t have the brain to tell yourself, and saving jobs within a struggling environment)

    However… to spend a lot of money on producing new lower alcohol products seems like a waste of time.

    Make it weaker – people will drink more to gain the desired effect (hitting us in the pocket when, really, no one ever needs that)- or more than they should, lower alcholic beverages being easier to drink.

    If it were possible – I would support alcohol for sale being removed from supermarkets and shops altoghether and only allow strictly regulated off-licences and bars/ hotels/ restaurant etc to sell it. Then Minimum Pricing wouldnt be required either really – would it???

    • les rice says:

      Why would I want to drink in pubs when I have young children?
      A few glasses of wine in the evening relaxes me and allows me to care for my kids.
      So going to a “pub” would make me a bad parent. But would satisfy your perception of responsible drinking?
      Are you a publican?
      Get in the real world.

  3. Probably the most ridiculous idea ever voiced regarding controling alcohol intake. Perhaps she’d like to force butter and cheese makers to get the fat content under 50% to prevent obesity.

    I’d like her to test it out by restricting the whole cabinet to drinking First Cape reduced-alcohol “wine” for a year.

    If you want to tackle overconsumption you need to tackle the reasons why people do it and try to remove temptations such as supermarkets offering fake discounts and especially multibuy offers on booze and retailers who are open 24/7 to sell alcohol.

  4. Instead of suggesting that wine should be watered down why doesn’t she just promote:

    “Drink a glass or two of water with every glass of wine” ?

    Adding water to wine is just a sneaky way to apply duty and vat to tap water.

  5. David Riach says:

    It was the last government which during its thirteen year tenure promoted the notion of the 24 hour society and with the support of its Scottish Labour MPs framed and passed into legislation the current Licensing Act, though, of course, it only applies to England and Wales.

    Is it not ironic that there’s a Ministerial call for dilution whereas HMRC would prosecute any retailer detected to have watered excisable liquor?

    Is there any wonder our politicians are so ridiculed and lampooned?

  6. Rogue_Leader says:

    Do you really, honestly think the government is going to convince French, Italian and Spanish wine producers to water down their wines?

    Absolute rubbish from the most risibly incompetent authoritarians ever elected to office in Britain.

  7. Don’t these people remember the fiasco with governments pushing for “Light Cigarettes”?

    – MJM

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