Gov’t hands over drink strategy to Portman

The Government seems poised to put control of its policy to curb binge-drinking into the hands of drinks industry body the Portman Group.

The Government is thought to have decided to adopt the Portman Group’s initiative called Drinks Aware, a set of guidelines about drinking patterns, to help it develop its anti-binge-drinking campaign.

The Government is also considering setting up a trust, called the Drinks Aware Trust, which will be co-funded by government, drinks manufacturers and retailers. This could mean that the Portman Group may also influence government research into alcohol misuse.

It is understood the decision has already prompted some concern from the Alcohol Education and Research Council, a body set up to finance projects for education and research on alcohol-related issues.

According to insiders, the Council has called for the resignation of Portman Group chief executive Jean Coussins, because of her “undue” influence over the Government’s alcohol policy.

The three involved departments however have failed to reach a consensus and have therefore decided to enroll the Portman Group as “the” independent body to spearhead its alcohol-misuse policy.

The decision comes weeks after the Government planned to allocate part of its &£4m advertising budget to the Portman Group, after failing to reach a consensus on how to manage the advertising strategy (MW September 22). The policy involves three separate departments – the Home Office, the Department of Health, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Insiders say that a memorandum of understanding about the Trust is being discussed with the Home Office. The alcohol industry is pushing the Government to sign up for a period of three years, which would mean that it will continue to fund the project despite potential changes in the administration’s line-up.

The Drinks Aware Initiative includes a website that lets users enter information about what they have drunk, using real brands and serving sizes. It then tells them how many units of alcohol they have consumed, and how close they are to recommended limits.

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