The UK government has vowed to push ahead with a minimum price

The UK government has vowed to push ahead with a minimum price

The UK government remains committed to minimum pricing and still believes the measure is legal under European law, a minister has said.

At an Alcohol in Moderation conference in London today (18 October), the Minister for government policy, Oliver Letwin, said that the country's coalition government is pushing ahead with a public consultation on a floor price. It is expected that the Home Office consultation will be launched next week.

Asked by just-drinks whether the Government believes a minimum price is legal under European Union (EU) law, Letwin replied: “Yes”. Pushed on whether the Government is concerned that the Scottish administration this week said it will delay its implementation while the legal battle plays out, Letwin added: “We think that it will turn out that we can pursue it”. 

Other European Union countries have recently raised concerns with the European Commission, including Bulgaria, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. And, in an initial response, the EU Commission admitted it has a "problem with the compatibility of minimum pricing plans under community law".

Letwin said the consultation is “an effort to discover the pricing level which will tend to make people more likely to buy alcohol in moderation.” Previously the government has indicated it would set a level of GBP0.40 (US$0.65) per unit. 

Minimum pricing is part of the coalition's alcohol strategy, announced in March. Letwin said that other possible measures will be looked at, such as curbs on alcohol advertising and “promotional techniques in commercial circumstances”. 

Earlier, the minister admitted that it is difficult to make people “behave in a sensible fashion” when it comes to alcohol.

“It’s a very tricky thing for a government to seek to influence,” he said, noting that there are no “obvious simple levers” to control people’s behaviour around drinking.