Blog: Chris MercerAndrew Lansley the toast of the drinks industry

Chris Mercer | 14 September 2011

The UK health minister was received about as warmly as he could have hoped at the Wine & Spirit Trade Association annual conference.

In stark contrast to the combative tone struck by some of his predecessors, Andrew Lansley appeared keen to shower praise on the UK drinks industry at the conference today (14 September). I counted five uses of "thank you" in the first ten minutes of his speech.

There is no doubt that, in the Conservative-led Coalition Government, the drinks industry has found a significant amount of common ground. Lansley, a Conservative Member of Parliament, heaped praise on the industry's commitment to the government's 'responsibility deal' to reduce alcohol harm. He also reinforced the official line that this Government prefers "voluntary action" over regulation.

Hard-talking, anti-alcohol health lobbyists have largely been driven underground by a Government that prioritises business and dislikes intervention.

Can this honeymoon last? It depends on what is achieved and whether enough people in the industry see this for the golden opportunity that it is. The early signs are promising for the sector, with 110 companies signed up to the responsibility deal.

But, the industry has to be mindful of the constant conflict in Conservative Party thinking. That conflict comes when its non-interventionist values are challenged by threats to public order and, relatedly, to anything that further jeopardises the economic wellbeing of the nation. 

For now, though, the industry and the current administration have an understanding that never looked possible before the general election in 2010.





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