A minimum price for alcohol? - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 02 March 2012 | Standard notes SN05021

Authors: Philip Ward, John Woodhouse

Topic: Alcoholism, Competition, Licensing

In public debate the term “minimum pricing” has been used generically to refer to two different policies. The first is to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol. The second is to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price.

The Coalition Agreement contained a pledge to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price. This was originally expected to find expression in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which was introduced in December 2010. In the event, minimum pricing did not appear in the Bill, but in January 2011 the Government announced its intention to “take forward measures to deliver this commitment without delay”. This will take the form of a ban on sales of alcohol below the rate of duty plus VAT. The ban is expected to be in force from 6 April 2012.

The Scottish Government is attempting to legislate for the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol. There have been calls for a similar measure in England and Wales, as recommended, for example, by the Chief Medical Officer for England and the Health Select Committee in the last Parliament. Alcohol Concern is now campaigning for a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

In some parts of the country, local solutions have been proposed: Middlesbrough, for example, is using its latest Licensing Policy Statement to encourage licensees to apply a 50p minimum unit price to the alcoholic products they sell. Other approaches have been tried in the countries of continental Europe.

Related information

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.

If you have any comments on briefings from the Commons Library, please contact papers@parliament.uk.

Please note, authors are not available to discuss the contents of papers with members of the general public.

The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.

Email holresearchservices@parliament.uk with comments on Lords Library Notes.

Please note that authors are not available to discuss the contents of Library Notes with members of the general public.

POST produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology. You can leave feedback at www.surveymonkey.com/postnote