Health groups slam binge-drinking body

Plans drawn up by the Government and the alcohol industry to create a new national sensible drinking education programme have come under fire from health groups, which say the new body will be underfunded and too much under the influence of drinks companies.

The Portman Group, which has been driving the plans forward, has categorically denied allegations that drinks companies have been promised a seat on the board of the new group if they promise to contribute a minimum of &£450,000 to fund it. A Portman Group spokeswoman says: “That is absolutely not true. How trustees will be selected is still a matter for discussion.”

The plans will be unveiled at a meeting to be held in Whitehall on January 18. In attendance will be representatives from the drinks industry, the Home Office, the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, the Department of Health, Alcohol Concern and the medical professions.

The new body will be based on Drink Aware, the responsible drinking education initiative run by The Portman Group – the drinks industry lobby group that also administers the industry’s self-regulatory code governing the marketing of alcohol.

However, the new body will be completely separate from The Portman Group, and will be run as an independent educational charity.

The charity will be administered by a board of 13 trustees, six of whom will come from the drinks industry and six who will be independent. The chair will also be independent.

The plans call for it to have a total budget in its first year of &£3m, rising to &£5m in its third year. Most of the funding will come from the alcohol industry.

Health groups point out that the drinks industry spends up to &£800m a year on marketing products. Government figures suggest alcohol abuse costs the UK economy between &£18bn and &£20bn a year.

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