As pressure continues to mount on the drinks industry to tackle excessive drinking, new Government figures show alcohol consumption in the UK fell by more than 3% last year.

Quoting statistics from HM Revenue & Customs, the British Beer & Pub Association yesterday said UK consumers had bought 3.2% less alcohol in 2008 than in 2007.

The fall contributes to a decline in alcohol consumption of around 6% since 2004.

The news comes in the week the Government played down suggestions that a minimum pricing plan for alcohol could be introduced.

The Government’s chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, is pushing for a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol, meaning cans of beer would cost at least £1 each and bottles of wine around £4.50.

However, ministers were quick to distance themselves from the proposals, which critics say would punish moderate drinkers and have little impact on the problem drinkers they intend to target.

And earlier this week, representatives from a group of drinks industry associations met trade ministers to lobby against the Government’s proposed four-year tax escalator on alcohol – which they claim could cause 75,000 jobs in the industry to disappear.

“We appreciate the opportunity to make our case directly to the Chancellor and Lord Mandelson and hope that they will take a close look at the potential impact on employment of any further tax increases,” said a spokesman for the bodies.

“The Government has a real opportunity next month to reverse its planned tax increases on the drinks industry to protect jobs and Treasury revenue.”