Published 23 May 2013 | Standard notes SN05021
Philip Ward, John Woodhouse
Alcoholism, Competition, Licensing
In public debate the term “minimum pricing” has been used generically to refer to two different policies. The first is to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol. The second is to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price.
The Government’s Alcohol Strategy (March 2012) included a commitment to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol. There would be consultation on the actual price but, once introduced, it would be illegal for alcohol to be sold for less than the set price.
In November 2012, the Home Office published A consultation on delivering the Government’s policies to cut alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour. This recommended a minimum unit price of 45p, to be introduced through primary legislation. The paper claimed that a unit price of 45p would lead to an estimated reduction in consumption across all product types of 3.3%, a reduction in crime of 5,240 per year, a reduction in 24,600 alcohol-related hospital admissions and 714 fewer deaths per year after ten years. The consultation closed on 6 February 2013. The Government has said it will respond “in due course”.
The Scottish Parliament passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing)(Scotland) Bill in May 2012, paving the way for a minimum price per unit of 50p. The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) believes minimum unit pricing is contrary to EU law and in July 2012 filed a petition for judicial review with the Scottish Court of Session. In a ruling of 3 May 2013, the Court refused the SWA’s petition. The SWA has said it will appeal.