Alcoholic drinks in Britain could be watered down under controversial Government plans to deal with binge drinking, a health minister said yesterday.This kind of “voluntary” arm-twisting is something I foretold in the past, but it gives me no pleasure to see it coming to pass. As I said then, almost exactly three years ago, “you read it here first.”
Anne Milton made clear that the Coalition wanted to see a ‘significant’ reduction in the number of units in beer, wines and spirits across the drinks market.
She warned that the Government was ‘deadly serious’ about slashing the numbers of deaths in Britain caused by alcohol.
There would be no one ‘silver bullet’ to tackle the nation’s drinking problems in the long-awaited alcohol strategy, expected in the next few weeks, Miss Milton said. But Department of Health sources last night confirmed that one of the ideas under consideration is the introduction of higher taxation for stronger alcoholic drinks.
Ministers are also pushing for a voluntary agreement from the drinks industry to water down their products.
How this will really make any difference is hard to see, when the UK and Ireland already on average have the weakest beer in Europe. And it’s always beer and cider, isn’t it, never wines or spirits? Having said that, the room for manoeuvre on spirits is limited, as the EU mandates that anything sold as spirits must have a minimum alcohol content of 37.5% ABV, and I can’t imagine that reducing Bell’s from 40% to 37.5% is going to have any impact whatsoever. People will just pour a little more.
You might expect the organisation that styles itself as the drinker’s and pubgoer’s champion to be up in arms about this. But no, they’re still bleating on about how beer is a low-strength drink consumed responsibly in the controlled environment of the pub, and how 2.8% pisswater is the “People’s Pint”.
Meanwhile, you can hear the song for yourself. Maybe it’s time for a new version, entitled “I am the woman, the very ugly woman, that waters the workers’ beer.”