Will minimum pricing ever see the light of day?

Will minimum pricing ever see the light of day?

Plans for a UK minimum price on alcohol have come under fresh attack ahead of a consultation on the measure. 

In a report published today (26 November) by the Adam Smith Institute, the authors argued that the Sheffield University model being used by the UK and Westminster and Scottish governments is “deeply flawed” and “based on faulty premises”. “The model ignores the likely effects of minimum pricing on the illicit alcohol trade, it disregards the health benefits of moderate drinking and fails to take account of the secondary poverty created by regressive price rises,”  it said.

The authors, John Duffy and Christopher Snowdon, added: “The decline in alcohol consumption seen in Britain in recent years has not led to the outcomes predicted by the model.” 

A Home Office consultation looking at the options of a GBP0.40, GBP0.45 and GBP0.50 minimum price is expected to be launched this Wednesday, according to reports. However, a poll of around 2,000 UK consumers by corporate advisory firm Zolfo Cooper found that around 60% are against a minimum price. 

The Scottish government’s plan to introduce a minimum price is also facing a legal challenge, with the case, led by the Scotch Whisky Association, due to resume in January

Miles Beale, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association's chief executive, said: “Given the significant questions being raised about the evidence base for minimum unit pricing, and increasingly broad opposition, the government should think again before pressing ahead with this ill-thought through policy.”

Meanwhile, speaking exclusively to just-drinks today at a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) event in London, Christine Cross, PwC’s chief retail and consumer advisor, said retailers are so far ignoring the threat of minimum pricing. “Nobody is planning for it as nobody is thinking it will happen,” she said. “I would be surprised if it becomes a reality.”