Alcohol Strategy

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:39 am on 7th February 2012.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 11:39 am, 7th February 2012

I do not accept that for two reasons. First, people should be free to spend their own money as they so wish, without having to obtain the permission of my hon. Friend before they decide how to live their life, in particular if no one else is affected; it is their responsibility. Secondly, the one thing that I have learned about alcoholism is that alcoholics will go to any lengths to get the alcohol they need; if we increase the price of alcohol, all that will happen is that they will give over a bigger proportion of their money to buying alcohol, leaving them less money to spend on other things—it will not change their behaviour at all.

I want to touch on advertising, but not for long. I opposed the ten-minute rule Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes on advertising. I used to work in marketing, for my sins, and I want to stress its purpose: it is about brand awareness and increased market share. When Cadbury sponsored “Coronation Street”, does anyone really believe that at the moment the Cadbury advert appeared at the start of the programme everyone leapt off their seat, switched off the TV set and dashed to the nearest newsagent to buy a bar of Dairy Milk? Of course not. All that Cadbury hoped was that, next time people went into the newsagent, they would buy a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk rather than a Kit Kat. That is the whole point of marketing.

If we curb alcohol advertising, more than £80 million of revenue for the broadcasting industry would be jeopardised, leading to a direct loss in programme making in this country. It would also wreak havoc on sporting events, and I expect that the Department of Health would prefer to encourage as much sporting activity as possible. We already have a robust system of advertising regulation in this country, administered by the Advertising Standards Authority and in this case the Portman Group, endorsed by Ofcom. We hear that so many young people are made aware of alcohol by advertising, but lots of young children know about car advertising and yet it does not mean that they go straight out and start driving a car, merely because they are aware of the advertising.

I worry where this will stop. Will my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes return to the House in a few months’ time and urge us to ban the advertising of cream cakes, pizzas, chocolate, fish and chips or curry, because they are all bad for us if eaten to excess? This is a slippery slope, and certainly not one that I am prepared to support.