NUT links to drink industry it attacks

13th July 2007 at 01:00
Union has pound;140,000 shareholding in Diageo and a pound;69,000 loan from brewery despite its criticism of alcohol companies' influence on children

BRITAIN'S BIGGEST teaching union has thousands of pounds tied up with alcohol firms, despite castigating the industry's influence on children.

The TES can reveal that the National Union of Teachers has a pound;140,000 shareholding in Diageo, the global drinks company, and a union subsidiary has a pound;69,000 loan from Everards Breweries.

Steve Sinnott, the NUT general secretary, used his keynote speech at the union's national conference this year to attack the alcohol industry. He condemned the pervasive influence of drinks companies' sports sponsorship on young people, from the beer logos on football shirts to the bottles of champagne presented to winners.

Yet end-of-year returns showed that the union owned 14,000 shares in Diageo, whose brands include Dom Perignon and Moet Chandon. Mr Sinnott said this week that he did not know what Diageo was.

On the NUT's December 2006 balance date, Diageo was the union's sixth-largest shareholding in a pound;3.5 million 26-company equities portfolio.

The Everards Brewery website boasts donations of raffle prizes to schools and computerised "babies" for use in PSHE lessons at schools and youth groups. It worked with the 700-pupil Riverside business college to upgrade its main hall, and pledged pound;40,000 to help the Leicester school become a specialist college.

At the union's Easter conference, Mr Sinnott said: "This exposure to alcohol is damaging young people's lives and their futures. It's damaging their learning. It's irresponsible. We are failing our youngsters."

He said a fifth of the students excluded from school were excluded for drinking alcohol, and drink-related deaths among young people had risen 60 per cent since 1991. He called for an end to alcohol sponsorship of sport before the London Olympic Games in 2012.

Diageo is an official sponsor of Glasgow's bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Its brands include Johnny Walker, the whisky, which sponsors the McLaren Mercedes Formula One team as well as a golf championship at Gleneagles in Scotland. It owns Smirnoff vodka, which works with Anna Kournikova, the Russian tennis starlet, and Guinness, which sponsors the rugby union premiership.

Everards, based in Leicestershire, provided a loan to an NUT subsidiary to open a bar at its conference centre, Stoke Rochford Hall in Lincolnshire. The 10-year loan was originally worth at least pound;120,000. Some pound;69,000 is still owed, guaranteed by the union.

The company owns 161 pubs in 11 counties, and sponsors the Leicester Tigers football club and the Leicestershire county cricket club.

Mr Sinnott described as "pathetic" any question about the apparent conflict between his stance on the industry, and the union's financial relationships with Diageo and Everards. He said Stoke Rochford Management had taken the loan from Everards because the conference centre contained a bar where delegates could relax.

"No statement I've ever made has been saying that (adults) shouldn't be able to relax," he said. "The statements I have made are in relation to the drinks industry attempting to use children to promote alcohol."

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