Tuesday, 17th November 2009
Struan Stevenson MEP addresses the CEPS
Speaking at this evening's CEPS ( European Sprits Organisation) annual reception in the European Parliament, Brussels, Struan Stevenson MEP said:
"I am from Scotland, so I know the importance of spirits and in our case Whisky to the Scottish and indeed UK economy. 65,000 jobs are supported in the UK by the whisky industry. Across the EU, exports of spirits brought in more than 6.5 billion Euros last year, generating 13.5 billion Euros in excise duties.
"But I am well aware that problem drinking and the abuse of alcohol is common not only in Scotland but across the EU and it is something we have to tackle. Having said that, you might be interested to know that the consumption of spirits in Europe has halved since 1980, so clearly whatever lies at the root of problem drinking, the statistics prove that it is not spirits. That is why I am alarmed at attempts to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland which will hit sensible and responsible drinkers, while largely failing to have any impact of the type of alcohol, like fortified wine, commonly preferred by the yobs and hooligans. In any case, the advice I am receiving from the European Commission clearly indicates that such moves may fall foul of both EU competition and WTO laws and could be challenged in court.
"I am also shadow rapporteur on the controversial food information proposal, which includes detailed plans for labelling food and alcohol within the EU. I am all in favour of providing consumers with full information about what they eat or drink, but some of the ideas being floated would literally smother spirit bottles with small print which you'd need a degree in science to understand. Let us encourage our European spirits sector to grow and prosper and not hamper it with over-regulation and red tape.
"The way to tackle problem drinking is education not tying up the industry in red tape. We clearly need to educate some people to change the way they view drinking."