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From Glasgow to Brighton and a few places in between!

On 01/10/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Liberal Democrats chose to hold their conference in Glasgow this year at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference centre along the river Clyde. If you have not been to Glasgow for a while, it has been transformed, particularly around the river bank and as they prepare to host the Commonwealth Games next year, there is considerable investment in infrastructure. It was, however, a rather a complicated space for the Lib Dems and my abiding memory will be walking miles!

We had some good fringe meetings. Jeremy Browne MP, the Home Office Minister, was pragmatic in his approach to crime and disorder. He talked about the need to ensure Lib Dems did not penalise moderate drinkers and the role of personal responsibility. With Hanover I attended the Lib Dem dinner and had the opportunity to thank Danny Alexander MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, for our Budget cut, and urge him for another next year, as well as putting in a bid for the extension of the small business rate relief.

From Glasgow I jetted off to to Dubrovnik in Croatia for the Brewers of Europe meeting. They have just launched a major report on the support for beer in the on-trade throughout Europe. All Secretaries General reported on what was happening in our own particular country. The UK was certainly more positive than many others. Lithuania has a competition commission investigation into a voluntary agreement that they would not brew beers greater than 9.2% abv. Portugal has lost 10 litres per capita since the recession. Italy is looking to increase excise duty and in Spain they are increasing the drinking age from 16 to 18. One can almost work out the economic status of the various countries from their reports! There were many more positive discussions to accompany this, but the narrative was clear.

Next onto Brighton where the Labour Party held it’s conference in sunshine and warmth (weather wise!). Diane Abbott MP (Shadow Minister for Health) was very vocal on minimum pricing. She seems to think that the reason consumption has come down is because there are people in cities who do not drink at all. She claimed that alcohol costs less per unit than Coke in some shops in Hackney. Her views, however, do not seem to be shared by other shadow ministers or to be Labour Party policy. Elaine Hindal the CEO of Drinkaware did very well to handle some hostile questions from the delegates and health professionals present. I had some very good encounters and meetings as did David Wilson and other members of my team.

Finally (for this week at least), I spoke at the Key Issues Forum organised by our Regional Secretary Richard Matthews in the Midlands. It was very well attended, with about 50 members present, and we heard some excellent presentations including Visit Peak District who are very keen to engage with pubs and help with marketing. Arnold Fewell, whose father was company secretary at Truman’s brewery, could not have been more helpful in spelling out how pubs need to adapt to help those with disabilities. He is a contact well worth making. Poppleston Allen spoke on legislation; Suzy Jackson on the Perceptions Group and Cofely GCF-Suez who are environmental consultants completed the line-up.

So this week it is Manchester and two evenings with the Conservatives. BBPA will be publishing our report on the impact of the Budget cut and hopefully will have an opportunity to say “Cheers, George”!


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