|Home Office criticised for leaving minimum pricing questions unanswered|
|Written by Carol Emmas|
|Monday, 04 February 2013 15:25|
The Wilson Drinks Report has criticised the Home Office for leaving a number of qustions unanswered prior to the consultation relating to the practicalities of implementing minimum unit pricing.
Tim Wilson, managing director of WDR, said even before the Home Office launched the consultation as part of its Alcohol Strategy, a number of critical questions had been identified that have not been addressed, such as its legality and how we will know if minimum unit pricing (MUP) actually works when alcohol consumption is falling anyway?
Questions raised by WDR include :
• Is MUP actually legal under EU competition law? Probably not.
• Will MUP actually reduce consumption by the minority of irresponsible drinkers in our society? Research by WDR suggests it will not.
• Will retailers keep the extra revenue? If so, what will this revenue be used for?
• What will the unintended consequences of a minimum pricing regime be? There are always some.
• Will we see a return of the booze cruise and white vans heading off to Calais?
• Who is going to police the MUP regime? There are thousands of outlets selling alcohol in England and Wales, and thousands of products, each with their own combination of ABV and pack size.
• What help will there be for small retailers who do not have sophisticated EPOS systems?
• Will there be a central database set up that contains every SKU sold in the off-trade, on-trade or online, together with its minimum price?
• Are meal deals (for example, dine in for two for £10) being specifically excluded, as suggested by Damian Green? What about other deals that combine food and alcohol?
• What evidence is there that MUP will work as intended? The government and health lobby are all relying on academic modelling rather than hard evidence. The Canadian liquor market is very different from the UK.
• How reliable are the alcohol-related hospital admissions figures? Recent analysis has cast major doubts on the headline figures that are bandied about (for example, 1 million alcohol-related admissions per annum).
• What has caused the recent decline in both total volumes of alcohol consumed and average consumption per capita?
• Will the criminal underworld focus much more on illicit alcohol manufacture and distribution?
• Will a 45p minimum price actually make much impact on prices?
• Will the Government look at some of the deep-rooted behaviours in British society that encourage us to drink when we are happy, sad, celebrating or mourning?
• Will TV shows be discouraged from featuring alcohol as a central plot line? This might be difficult at the Rovers Return or the Queen Vic in Albert Square.
• Is the policy aimed at a large chunk of the middle classes or a small proportion of problem drinkers?
• What will be the impact on headline inflation?
Wilson said: "The arguments about legality and the Sheffield University model have been well rehearsed. MUP may be a simple concept from either a political or health point of view, but few people seemed to have thought about some of the practicalities of a minimum pricing regime. For instance, how will MUP be policed? Who will be visiting my local corner shop to make sure that they are not charging less than the MUP for some unbranded vodka? How will the policy makers be able to split out any impact of MUP on alcohol consumption, when volumes are already falling across most categories of alcoholic products?"
Wilson added: "I'm not convinced we will be any the wiser after the consultation about the practical challenges, the unintended consequences and the difficulty in establishing whether MUP has actually reduced consumption in the target drinker groups."
The comments have come on the back of the the Wine & Spirit Trade Association galvanising support of the drinks industry to launch the first consumer-facing campaign in opposition to the government's minimum unit pricing plans and a number of Tory MPs revealing they are opposed to the plans that David Cameron has championed.
Licensees have one day left to respond to the consultation, which includes proposals for a minimum unit price for alcohol of 45p.