Argument for minimum alcohol pricing is 'flawed' says trade association

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Minimum alcohol pricing
The model used by the Government as its basis for introducing a minimum price for alcohol is 'fatally flawed' the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has said following the release of a report earlier this week. 

The Government launched a 10 week consultation into its alcohol strategy earlier today that asks views for views on a range of areas, including the setting of a minimum price for alcohol between 40 and 50 pence per unit in an attempt to curb binge drinking. 

Other areas it will seek views on include: 

  • banning multi-buy promotions in shops and off-licences to reduce excessive alcohol consumption
  • whether mandatory licensing conditions, to ensure that they are sufficiently targeting problems such as irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs, should be reviewed
  • cutting red tape for responsible businesses to reduce the burden of regulation while maintaining the integrity of the licensing system

However, the WSTA asked why the Government was pushing ahead with the plans when a report, published by the Adam Smith Institute on Monday, showed that the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model it had used to base its argument on was 'based on unreasonable assumptions which render its figures meaningless.'

WSTA Chief Executive, Miles Beale said: “On top of opposition from Cabinet, Europe, consumers and a legal challenge in Scotland, this latest research from the Adam Smith Institute identifies fatal flaws in the modelling used to support minimum unit pricing.  

“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.”

Negative outcome

The Adam Smith Institute's report said the model the Government used for its argument to introduce minimum pricing was partly based on the fact that heavy drinkers would reduce their consumption of alcohol because of the price rise. It says there is 'ample evidence' that heavy drinkers are less price-sensitive. 

The report also claimed that the model ignored other 'negative outcomes' of a price rise such as an increase in illicit alcohol trade and said it failed to look at some of the health benefits associated with moderate drinking habits.  

Beale said he could not understand why the Government was pushing ahead with the consultation now, although did say running it for 10 weeks would give all parties enough time to give their views.

"It is hard to understand why the Government is pushing ahead with the consultation now, when there is a wall of opposition in Europe, a legal challenge in Scotland, a lack of any real evidence to support minimum unit pricing, opposition from consumers and concerns raised from within Cabinet itself. 

“Minimum unit pricing and the proposed restrictions to promotions are wholly untargeted and will unfairly punish millions of consumers and businesses in the UK, while doing nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse or associated crime and disorder."

A minimum price for alcohol has been welcomed by some sectors of the industry with Greene King urging the Government​ to bring in the policy for England and Wales to bring these countries in line with Scotland.

However, Alistair Darby, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers told the Daily Mirror yesterday that he believed the move was a 'Trojan horse' and could lead to other tax rises for the sector, an echo of the Association of Multiple Retailers' concerns noted in September​. 

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