It’s not been a good month for the UK’s various governments when it comes to legislating to curb alcohol abuse. In Scotland, Holyrood was forced to delay its scheduled introduction of minimum pricing as European and international suppliers and producers challenged the legality of such a move, led by the Scottish whisky industry. And this week, MPs in Westminster admitted that plans for minimum pricing in England and Wales would not happen before 2014 at the earliest as the implications of a strong legal challenge in Scotland effectively spilled over.
In the meantime, the logic of legislation was challenged by new statistics from the HMRC, which revealed this week that duty fraud now accounts for 10% of all beer sold in shops - a clear sign that if you mess too much with pricing, consumers will increasingly find alternative ways to drink.
” The Portman Group’s ruling against Jody Scheckter’s Laverstoke Park brand is absurd”
Adam Leyland, Editor
In the meantime, the role of policing alcohol has been left largely to the industry. and you have to say, in the form of the Portman Group, it has been fairly successful both in preventing irresponsible marketing and curbing previous inclinations by the government to introduce heavy-handed legislation in the first place.
Unfortunately, the Portman Group doesn’t always get it right. One such case involves the small, expensive organic ales sold under ex-Formula One champion Jody Scheckter’s Laverstoke Park brand. Over the past five years, his award-winning craft ales have been widely appreciated by a niche group of middle-aged connoisseurs. But the idea that the childish Laverstoke Park Farm identity - developed from a drawing of Scheckter by his then four-year old son, and used across a wide range of organic food and drink he sells - would encourage under-age drinking, is absurd.
The Portman Group’s decision isn’t based on evidence. It’s based on a panel that sits in an ivory tower. The fact it so rarely upholds complaints against the industry groups that support it is almost certainly a conspiracy theory too far. But the fact that one complaint can overrule common sense, a blemish-free record, and a total absence of evidence, is concerning.