UK Government prepares to unveil alcohol plans

UK Government prepares to unveil alcohol plans

The UK health secretary has reaffirmed that the Government plans to ban sales of alcohol at 'below cost'.

Andrew Lansley said in an interview with the BBC yesterday (28 November) that the Government intends to include the measure in its white paper on public health, a draft of intended health legislation. The white paper is scheduled to be published later this week.

The Government has repeatedly said that it wants to see fewer licensed premises operating in UK cities and a ban on below-cost sales of drinks in order to help curb alcohol consumption in the UK. It is, however, the definition of 'below cost' that has hampered the policymakers and caused disunity within the drinks industry.

As things stand, those in the industry who have been arguing for a definition that includes only duty tax and value added tax (VAT) are quietly confident. Critics, who reside predominantly in the on-trade, say that this definition does not go far enough, even with an expected rise in VAT next month from 17.5% to 20%. However, it is by far the easiest formula to implement.

The public health white paper is the start of a crucial couple of months of drinks sector lobbying.

Ministers are also expected to elaborate on long-awaited plans to "overhaul" the UK's licensing laws for alcohol. In January, meanwhile, just-drinks understands that the industry expects an announcement on the result of high-level talks between its representatives and the Government on ways to promote responsible drinking.

The so-called "Responsibility Deal" is set to cover a range of issues, including marketing, product labelling and consumer education.