Minimum pricing calls grow louder

Minimum pricing calls grow louder

Pressure on the UK Government to consider minimum pricing for alcohol is growing, after it emerged at the weekend that the country's main health advisory body is likely to back the policy.

A hardline stance on alcohol-related harm, including health and social problems, is expected to be taken by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), several national newspapers have reported.

In a report to be published tomorrow (2 June), NICE is expected to back a range of measures to curb excess drinking, including a minimum price for alcohol, greater protection for children from drinks advertising and stricter rules on alcohol's availability.

If the proposals are confirmed, then the report will put more pressure on the UK's new Coalition Government to consider a base price for drinks.

Support for minimum pricing has taken root since the Scottish Government announced plans late last year to use its devolved powers to introduce the policy in Scotland. 

Supermarket chain Tesco last month said it would back minimum pricing in the UK, while several pub companies and brewers believe the policy could help them to claw back ground against discount deals by retailers.

However, the Scottish Government has failed to garner support for minimum pricing in Scotland's Parliament. In addition, all main industry bodies representing beer, wine and spirits remain publicly opposed to minimum pricing, as is the UK's competition regulator, the Office of Fair Trading.

The Conservative Party, which forms the bulk of the coalition, also consistently opposed minimum pricing for England and Wales when in opposition.

A policy roadmap released by the Government last month detailed several initiatives to deal with alcohol-related harm, including a ban on "below cost" selling by retailers and an "overhaul" of the current licensing rules. It did not mention minimum pricing.