The discussion over parliamentary groups is important to tackling alcohol harm, with some promoting alcohol interests while another looks to curb alcohol harm. They are not mutually exclusive.
The chair of a group of UK parliamentarians focused on reducing alcohol harm is also co-chair of another recently revealed to have taken money from an alcohol-industry-linked group.
Christian Wakeford, who switched from the Conservatives to Labour in January, is chair of the Alcohol Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), supported by charity Alcohol Change for a figure of £3,000.
But Wakeford is also co-chair of the alcohol-industry supported group on the Night Time Economy, which has the mission, “To recognise the cultural and economic importance of nightlife to the UK.”
Records show this APPG received £7,500 or more from the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which campaigns to #SaveNightlife for pubs, clubs and alcohol companies including Pernod Ricard and Jägermeister.
Wakefield and Alcohol Change were both contacted for comment on the issues raised by this story, but had yet to respond at the time of publication. Any replies will be added accordingly.
Just over half the £25m put into all-parliamentary bodies since 2018 was from the private sector, says research from the Guardian newspaper, a sum which critics say gives them undue sway in politics.
Journalists and members of the public are, arguably, encouraged to confuse reports written and published by commercial interests with one which has had politically balanced parliamentary oversight.
The smallprint of a 46-page NTIA report on the impact of covid-19 last year was billed, “An inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Night Time Economy,” and bears the parliamentary portcullis logo.
But, in a small footnote, it adds, “This is not an official publication of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. It has not been approved by either House or its committees.”
The disproportionate role of commercial interests in establishing and being the real power behind All-Party Parliamentary Groups has wider implications for alcohol harm too.
The wine and spirits APPG produced a report last week on the “unworkability” of the government’s tax proposals. Some of its contentions were inaccurate but still gained uncritical media attention. ■