A DRAFT law that proposed serious curbs on the promotion and consumption of alcoholic drinks in Spain has been dropped.

Health Minister Elena Salgado scrapped the legislation after fellow Government members showed a lack of support.

The principal aim of the law was to combat the increasing problem of underage drinking in Spain. However, the government has now decided the health of the nation’s children should not be debated in parliament.

“Children should remain away from party debate and political fighting,” the minister told a press conference in Madrid.

Representatives from the country’s farming and wine sectors see the move as a massive victory after serious concerns were raised that the “anti-alcohol” law, as some sections of the media called it, would have a damaging effect on the two industries.

President of the Alicante wine region, Francisco Amorós said: “At last common sense has prevailed. I just hope this decision was made in good will and not because it was an election loser for the Government.”

Mariano Beroz, a producer from the Somontano wine region in northern Spain said the scrapping of the draft was not due to pressure from the wine industry rather because of the weight of public opinion against the law.

However, the decision to scrap the draft law has angered some. The president of the Spanish Medicine Society, José Manuel Solla said: “The government has bowed to pressure from the alcohol industry rather than tackle the growing problem of underage drinking.”

The general secretary of the Medical Organization, Juan José Rodríguez said: “We would have celebrated a measure to combat drinking in the under 18s like this law but economic power has had more weight.”

The proposal had been heavily criticised by the main opposition Partido Popular and even members of the socialist PSOE government, many of whose members represent the country’s major wine producing regions in parliament.

The draft, which had the support of medical bodies and parents’ groups, placed heavy restrictions on the advertising of alcoholic drinks, prohibited the sale of alcohol to under 18s and banned the consumption of alcohol in centres of learning with the exception of universities.

According to government figures, 65 per cent of children between the age of 14 and 18 habitually drink at the weekend – many at botellones, huge scale outdoor drinking parties.

Salgado still maintains the proposals were not a direct attack on the drinks sector rather moves to combat underage drinking. “This law was to be directed at families who see their children getting drunk every weekend, not at the wine industry,” she said.

Salgado confirmed the about turn had the full backing of the Government and she would not step down from her position as a result.

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