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General Election 2017

Lib Dem manifesto pledges minimum unit pricing for alcohol

By Georgina Townshend , 17-May-2017
Last updated on 18-May-2017 at 09:54 GMT2017-05-18T09:54:36Z

Health action: The Liberal Democrat Party has said it wants to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol
Health action: The Liberal Democrat Party has said it wants to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol

The Liberal Democrat Party has said it wants to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol in its pre-election manifesto to “help people stay healthy”.

The policy, which was adopted in Scotland late last year, has been recommended as a way of increasing the price of drinks with high alcohol content, which are usually very cheap, to reduce unhealthy levels of consumption.

However, pub industry bodies have warned that minimum unit pricing could increase costs for pubs without significant evidence that it would benefit public health.

Following the Scots

Now the Lib Dems have pledged they will introduce it in England and Wales, subject to the final outcome of a legal challenge in Scotland. 

In December last year UK parliament MPs called for minimum unit pricing to help tackle drink-related crimes and health problems, despite rejecting similar plans in 2013.

Misguided and outdated view

But The Coaching Inn Group chief executive Kevin Charity said: “The suggestion of minimum unit pricing on alcohol is simply a misguided and out-of-date view. The on-trade is the best example of sensible alcohol retailing. Frankly, I find it embarrassing that some politicians are so out of touch that they still keep trying to treat us like naughty schoolchildren.” 

He said the politicians should realise that “sensible alcohol consumption is enjoyed by millions on a daily basis” and on the whole adults can be trusted to make their own decisions.

“In my view there far simpler and quicker wins that can be had in relation to alcohol issues,” he added.

Significant burden on pubs

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nichols said her organisation had previously liaised with both national and local authorities to raise concerns about the effectiveness of minimum unit pricing.

“We are wary about its potential to actually tackle any areas of alcohol-related harm without placing significant and disproportionate burdens on pubs and restaurants,” she said.

“We would still be cautious about any policy that looks to increase costs for the sector without significant evidence that it would succeed in its aims.”

Thriving community ‘needs pubs’

The manifesto, published today (17 May), recognises that a thriving rural community needs local services and community facilities such as pubs.

Other manifesto pledges that would directly affect publicans include a review of the business-rates system to lessen the burden on smaller businesses and ensure high streets remain competitive, as well as considering the implementation of Land Value Taxation, which disregards the value of buildings, personal property, and other improvements.

A Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) spokesman said: "It is heartening to see the Lib Dem manifesto highlighting the importance of pubs to rural communities and recognising the need for a review of business rates, particularly with a view to lessening the burden on small businesses such as pubs.” 

EU nationals

The Lib Dem’s will also push for the UK to “unilaterally guarantee” the rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK to end the ongoing uncertainty about their rights to remain in the country after Brexit.

Nicholls said: “The Lib Dem manifesto highlights the importance of tourism and touches upon a number of issues that the ALMR has been focused on recently. Chiefly, the protection of rights for EU citizens in the UK, which is essential for the country’s eating and drinking out sector, which is so heavily reliant on non-UK workers.”

The manifesto also states that the party wishes to remain in the single market. 

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