House of Lords criticises EU alcohol strategy

6th March, 2015 by Melita Kiely

A House of Lords committee has criticised the EU’s alcohol strategy saying it “achieved little” and is urging member states to focus on taxation and labelling to tackle problem drinking.

The House of Lords is seeking input for its inquiry into a new EU Alcohol Strategy

The House of Lords has released a report on the EU alcohol strategy calling for minimum unit pricing, taxation overhauls and labelling laws

The EU’s Alcohol Strategy ran from 2006 to 2012 and has been reviewed by the House of Lords – the UK’s second chamber of Parliament.

In the review, peers said the EU’s previous strategy had good intentions, but did not concentrate on what the EU itself can act on, thus “it achieved little” according to the Lords.

“The previous EU Alcohol Strategy had the laudable goal of reducing alcohol-related harm, but the EU missed a real opportunity to take effective action in combatting alcohol abuse across all member states,” said Baroness Usha Prashar, the chairman of the Lord’s EU committee.

“During the inquiry we heard from manufacturers, retailers and advertisers about the voluntary initiatives they have developed to tackle the harm caused by alcohol abuse.

“Voluntary action alone is not enough. It must be backed by legislation at EU level and industry should play a constructive role in bringing this about.”

MUP and labelling

The report also called on the UK government to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol in addition to reviewing the current taxation system as an incentive to producers to lower the alcoholic strength of their products.

“Minimum unit pricing is a highly controversial topic, views are sharply divided and no member state currently has a law,” said Baroness Prashar. “In 2012 the Scottish government, however, decided to introduce minimum unit pricing and the UK government undertook to do the same.

“Our view is that if it proves successful in bringing health benefits to the heaviest drinkers in Scotland, the UK government should honour the commitment it gave in 2012 and follow suit.”

Labelling of alcoholic drinks was also highlighted, with Lords urging the EU to include alcoholic drinks within the new rules that require food and drinks labels to display mandatory nutritional information from 13 December 2016.

“The Latvian Presidency is holding a council next month on EU alcohol policy,” Baroness Prashar said. “We hope this report will encourage meaningful action on matters which are within the EU’s power.”

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