New rules on alcohol pricing: A measure too far?

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plan for a 40p per unit minimum alcohol price
plan for a 40p per unit minimum alcohol price Photo: ITV News

The plan for a 40p per unit minimum alcohol price will unleash an almighty, blazing clash between powerful retailers and government. The big questions being;

  • Health - will this really work?
  • Personal freedoms - should the state dictate what we consume?
  • Legal - will this fall foul of EU free trade rules?

To give you a flavour of the heat in this argument from retailers here is the statement I have got from Morrisons:

This is unprecedented intervention for the Government to set the retail price of a product which goes against basic rules of competitive markets

I phoned the industry spokesman for the cider makers - who told me this amounts to "prohibition for the poor" - if your wealthy no problem... but if you are poor they are "trying to price you out of drinking".

There is a raging argument already on social networking sites - let me give you one of the strong contributions; "Minimum alcohol pricing distorts the market, curtails freedom, unfairly targets the poor".

Meanwhile The Scotch Whisky Association tell me "minimum alcohol pricing would act as an 'illegal' barrier to free trade within Europe."

For consumers the question is - what will it cost us? Here is the Government's version of things (based on independent research from Sheffield University):

  • Moderate Drinkers (14 units a week): £6 a year
  • Heavy Drinker (35 units): £39 a year
  • Very Heavy Drinker (above 35 units): £135