Thursday, 19 August 2010

Minimum alcohol pricing is coming our way

Some gossip I picked up from the SIBA do the other day is that the government are very keen on minimum pricing for alcohol. Apparetly alcohol duty is unlikely to have any major reforms, but as soon as they can figure out a way of doing it a minimum price per unit of alcohol will be brought in. And guess what? The main reason seems to be to keep the newspapers happy.


  1. Big surprise. Will it be in the form of increased duty? In order to add further to Gov't coffers, or more just a general minimum price to keep the "Daily Fail" et. al happy?

    All I want is less discrepency between on and off license prices. Sod's law, however, that making the cheap nasty stuff a minimum price will still just push up the premium range further. More money will be made off license, still on the same products, screwing over those of us who were never at fault anyway.

    Must... not... let... blood... boil...

  2. I would be surprised to see minimum alcohol pricing as usually defined introduced as it drives a coach and horses through one of the basic principles of competition law, namely the ban on price-fixing.

    And if it did, I would confidently predict it would not have the claimed effect, and would bring about a whole raft of unintended consequences.

    What we are more likely to see is continued upward pressure on the level of alcohol duties combined with some kind of ban on "below-cost selling" - which itself would be legally dubious.

  3. Yes, the idea of a "minimum price" is a none-starter. It would simply require too much legislative jiggery-pokery to prove woprth while. However, as PC says, I expect them to get round it in other ways.

  4. I think the best we can hope for is something bashing tramp juice white ciders but I'm sure whatever great initiative they come up with won't have the intended effects.

  5. There is apparently an initiative to vary cider duty according to juice content, so those with a low juice content are reclassified as "made wine" and subject to a higher level of duty. See here:

    "The Budget announced that the Government would review alcohol taxation and pricing and report in the autumn.

    It also announced that secondary legislation will be introduced to increase the tax on cheap, strong ciders. This legislation will change the definition of cider by introducing a minimum juice content to qualify to pay duty at the cider rates. Products with low juice content will be taxed at the more appropriate made-wine rate from September 2010."

    That sounds as though it has the potential to be a sensible reform. Most of the really dirt-cheap alcohol is white (or amber) cider. The Special Brews of this world are in practice no cheaper per unit of alcohol than many standard canned lagers.