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Alcohol minimum pricing: the industry responds

28-Nov-2012
Last updated on 29-Nov-2012 at 11:26 GMT

Related topics: General News

The Government has proposed a minimum price for alcohol of 45p per unit in a consultation on its Alcohol Strategy. Here are the reactions from key people in the pub trade and beyond.

Alcohol minimum pricing: the industry responds

British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds

“It is good that the Government acknowledges that sensible, responsible drinking supports pubs as part of our community fabric. I hope that the policies emerging from this review will reflect that - any review of the Mandatory Code should not result in new onerous legislation or regulation for pubs. We do however welcome further clarification on the ban on promotions, to give greater clarity.

“There are positive signs in the Government’s approach to reducing the red tape burden. I welcome the decision to consult on the current requirement to advertise licensing applications in a newspaper. This is a proposal which is costly and unnecessary and something which the BBPA has taken a lead to remove. We are also pleased that extending the number of Temporary Events Notices per premises is being considered.

“On multi-buy promotions, this would affect beer more than any other drinks as beer is the most common type of drink sold in this way. However, if the Government is seeking to introduce minimum pricing, it is difficult to see why they feel the need for this.

“On minimum pricing, there are differing views on its potential role in tackling alcohol-related harm. We strongly believe that alcohol should be priced in a way that is socially responsible, but there are concerns that minimum pricing would penalise a sensible majority of people who drink in moderation. The BBPA has always supported a ban on below-cost selling, and we would have been happy to work with the Government in looking at ways to achieve this.”

Association for Licensed Multiple Retailers' strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls

“We are pleased that Governments both sides of the border have now finally woken up to the fact that it is the plethora of pocket money priced alcohol promotions which are the real problem. With 70% of alcohol now bought and consumed at home, and widespread loss leading, punitive measures against pubs and bars are not delivering either Government’s public policy objectives on health and crime and disorder.

“We are disappointed that the consultation does not go further and get a grip on bulk sales, price led advertising and in-store promotions. There is nothing here which will stop supermarkets continuing to sell wholesale quantities of alcohol to the public at prices some pubs cannot buy it. The consultation itself acknowledges that there will be net benefit to the off-trade.

"Worse, the prospect of additional costs and controls on pubs and bars is clearly flagged. We have an open-ended question asking what more can be done which can only result in pubs, clubs and bars signing a further a blank cheque in operating costs. What we need is not only measures to make it more expensive to drink at home, but also action to remove the horrendous regulatory and tax burdens which are crippling the pub and literally pricing many out of the market. Encouraging people to drink in pubs means that they consume measured quantities served by supervised by trained staff and promotes responsible consumption.”

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) national chairman, Colin Valentine

"CAMRA has campaigned for many years to end the loss leading practices of major supermarket chains, and therefore welcomes today's proposals. For too long, supermarkets have been given free rein to use predatory pricing policies to undermine beer sales in Britain's pubs, and blow many small businesses out of the water.

"Today's proposals are an encouraging move towards levelling the playing field between pub and supermarket prices, giving hard working pub licensees more of a chance of competing in the current climate."

Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) chief executive Miles Beale

"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.

“Minimum unit pricing will punish responsible consumers with higher prices, hitting the poorest hardest and will do nothing to address the causes of alcohol misuse.

“There is no evidence that minimum unit pricing will tackle alcohol misuse – in fact the international evidence suggests that problem drinkers are the least likely to be deterred by price rises.”

“[On promotions] there is no compelling evidence linking retailer promotions with alcohol misuse – indeed overall levels of alcohol consumption are falling. The most recent evaluation of the ‘multi-buy’ ban in Scotland showed that it has had no significant impact on alcohol sales.  This raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of a promotions ban in reducing alcohol misuse."

 Brewdog co-founder James Watt

“The new minimum price of £0.50 per unit for Scotland and an anticipated £0.45 a unit for the rest of the UK will not affect any craft brewers pricing (Punk IPA currently retails in the off trade for around £0.90 per unit equivalent).

"The proposals will mean that the multi-national corporate hammerheads no longer allowed to discount their liquid cardboard to embarrassingly pathetic levels it will act to level the playing field in the off trade.

"Craft brewers can’t, and shouldn’t, discount their beers and sustain losses. With less of a price differential now in the off trade between industrial and craft beer it will be far easier for the consumer to trade up to awesome craft brews.”

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand

“We strongly welcome the Government’s intention to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, which is an important step in helping to address the UK’s long- term problems associated with binge drinking and alcohol-related social disorder.

"We also welcome the news that a broader consultation on associated measures will commence. We would like to see the outcome of the consultation set a minimum unit price at 50 pence per unit, as it could significantly increase the number of lives saved per year and avoid any issues associated with cross-border shopping between England and Scotland.”  

British Retail Consortium food director Andrew Opie

"Most major retailers believe minimum pricing and controls on promotions are unfair to most customers. They simply penalise the vast majority, who are perfectly responsible drinkers, while doing nothing to reduce irresponsible drinking.

"Harmful drinking has cultural causes and retailers are tackling those with collaborative working on clear labelling and targeted awareness campaigns that help customers drink responsibly. Where's the evidence that imposing a blanket measure that puts up prices for all customers will make a difference?

"Most people already drink less than recommended limits. There is no reason why they should be denied access to discounts.

"The Government should recognise the role of personal responsibility. It should not allow interfering in the market to regulate prices and promotions to become the default approach for public health policy."

The National Association of Cider Makers (NACM)

“We understand that the consultation process only intends to consider the level at which the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) will be set. With the range of evidence suggesting that the policy is both flawed and possibly illegal, we feel strongly that the government need to broaden the consultation to review whether MUP will actually deliver the reduction in the levels of misuse that we all hope to see – and that in doing so there are not dramatic unintended consequences that adversely affect responsible consumers, producers and retailers.

“The NACM remains of the view that minimum pricing as a whole population measure is not a ‘silver bullet’ that will tackle why a small minority misuse alcohol.
 
“This view is supported by many. Earlier this week the Adam Smith Institute, an independent think tank, released a study that identified that the evidence base for MUP was ‘deeply flawed’ and that the policy ignores the likely effects of MUP on the illicit alcohol trade.”

Budvar UK CEO Tony Jennings

“We should not kid ourselves this proposed measure is about curbing binge drinking, rather it is about the loathing of our industry shown by the powerful neo-prohibitionist and health lobbies in an unholy alliance with a government determined to squeeze even more money out of us.

"It was naïve for some people in the on-trade to blame the off-trade for its pricing policies.

"There are people out there hell bent on destroying this industry and they will welcome legal challenges to the minimum pricing scheme because it gives them an excuse to simply bring in another spike in excise duty that can’t be challenged. The only way we have a hope in hell of seeing this lot off is by working together.”

UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall MEP

"Imposing a minimum 45p per unit will be a blow for the majority of moderate drinkers in this country who just like a quiet drink at home. But it will not tackle the problem it is designed to solve.

"And I find it bizarre that David Cameron, who generally falls over backwards to do as our masters in Brussels demand, is ploughing on with this scheme despite it being illegal under EU laws.

"What they are doing is imposing their will on us in the name of it being in our best interests, which invariably means less freedom and higher costs.

"I am all in favour of ending loss-leader discounting in supermarkets and off-licences which has played a significant role in the downfall of our pub industry and it would be nice to think it might mean more people going back to them.

"Yes, we have a binge drinking problem, mainly involving young people, but minimum pricing will not solve it."

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