The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has called the Government response to the Health Select Committee report on alcohol minimum pricing 'disappointing' with fears the policy will not significantly tackle the problems caused by low-cost supermarket alcohol.
The response revealed the Government would be consulting in the autumn on the possible per unit price for alcohol and would consider linking any price to the rate of inflation.
"The Government’s response is disappointing on two counts – not only does it promote minimum pricing as the primary solution to this problem but it also significantly moves the goal posts," Kate Nicholls, ALMR strategic affairs director, said.
"The suggestion that any minimum price may be subject to indexation prejudges the public consultation on pricing promised for the autumn and there is no doubt that this will significantly weaken retailer support for the measure. Although the Government has promoted this as a pub-friendly policy, the jury is still out for many within the trade and this will raise fears of greater Government control of pricing generally, not just problem pricing."
The ALMR said if the minimum price was not fixed the policy was also in danger of punishing the responsible majority of drinkers and of not effectively tackling supermarket selling.
"The Government was quite clear in its Alcohol Strategy that this was to be a measure to tackle the plethora of pocket money priced alcohol promotions by supermarkets which are now acknowledged as the root cause of the problem. If minimum pricing is to be introduced, it must be a floor below which prices cannot fall, not something which is subject to automatic indexation, if it is to tackle the irresponsible minority," she concluded.
In its response to the Health Select Committee report the Government also said:
- The autumn consultation on the price per unit will take into account the possible impact on consumption, health harms, crime, the Exchequer and business.
- A 'sunset clause' or review clause of the policy, to make sure it is effective before it is fully implemented, will be considered.
- It remains committed to consulting on a ban on so-called 'multi-buy' sales of alcohol.
- It will review conditions of the Mandatory Code for Alcohol to make sure problems from 'irresponsible alcohol promotions in pubs and clubs' are being dealt with.
- Changes to duty for lower and higher strength alcoholic drinks will continue and the Committee may have 'underestimated the significant impact that reducing the alcoholic strength of drinks can have'.
- Arguments on the effectiveness of enforcing reduced alcohol advertising spend were 'weak'.