The WSTA suggests the government should look again at a below-cost ban

The WSTA suggests the government should look again at a below-cost ban

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association has urged the UK Government to reconsider its ban on below-cost sales as an alternative to minimum pricing.

The Coalition Government had planned to introduce a ban on sales below duty plus value added tax (VAT) last April, but the move was scrapped in favour of minimum pricing. A previous investigation by The Guardian newspaper had revealed that the duty plus VAT formula would only affect around one out of 4,000 alcohol deals.

But, in its submission to the Home Office's consultation on minimum pricing, the WSTA has argued that a below-cost ban should be reassesed. “This would deal with the worst cases of deeply discounted alcohol without impacting on the majority of responsible drinkers as would MUP (minimum unit pricing),” the submission states.

If the government is successful with introducing a minimum price, the WSTA also argued that future increases in the unit price should be voted on in Parliament and not be left to ministers. Instead, the group says planned rises “should be subject to consultation with the industry and subject to a full debate and vote in Parliament”.

It added: “Our view is that government policy should not be focussed on minimum unit pricing, which is a general policy affecting all consumers, but on the minority of consumers who misuse alcohol.”

The WSTA launched a campaign late last month in a bid to rally public support against minimum pricing. Speaking to just-drinks earlier today, WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said that it is early days for the campaign, but added: “The better informed the debate, the better for us.”

Asked if a legal challenge against minimum pricing is a possibility, he said: “I think it would be, but I would be hugely surprised if we enter that territory for a while.” Beale pointed to the on-going legal battle in Scotland over the government's plans for a GBP0.50 floor price.