Feature Alcohol and Public Health

Under the influence: 3. Role of parliamentary groups

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f7571 (Published 08 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:f7571
  1. Jonathan Gornall, freelance journalist
  1. 1Colchester, Essex, UK
  1. jgornall{at}mac.com

Almost half of MPs are members of the all party parliamentary group supporting the beer industry, and undisclosed numbers belong to groups supporting other alcohol producers. Jonathan Gornall investigates what effect this might have had on the government’s alcohol policy

On 14 July 2013, the chancellor, George Osborne, was among 100 MPs and members of the House of Lords who mingled with guests from the alcohol industry at the 20th annual dinner of the all party parliamentary beer group in Westminster.

Among the various awards handed out that night, there was one for Osborne, named Beer Drinker of the Year for his decision, announced in the spring Budget, not only to scrap the beer duty escalator put in place by the previous government but also to take a further 1 pence off beer duty.

“It is more than the cut in duty for beer,” the chancellor told the guests at the dinner. “It is also a symbol that parliament cares about this industry . . . On behalf of all the members of parliament here to all the representatives of the industry, you can hopefully take what has happened this year as a recognition from all of us that we heard what you were saying and we listened and reacted.”

Four days later, the Burton Mail printed a photograph of its local MP Andrew Griffiths, pictured side by side with the chancellor at the event, both men clutching pints of beer. As chair of the all party beer group, reported the newspaper, Griffiths too had been presented “with a prestigious award” by the Society of Independent Brewers “for his work for the brewery industry.”1

The timing of the publication might have had a bitter resonance for anyone in the public health community who happened to see it. Only the …

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