Alcohol Concern are calling on the public to urge MPs to push for minimum pricing ahead of the forthcoming national alcohol strategy. Alcohol Concern state:
The next few weeks will be our last chance to influence the shape of the alcohol strategy, which will shape public policy on reducing alcohol harm for years to come. We must act now to counteract the lobbying power of the drinks industry and major retailers.
The Prime Minister has come out in support of minimum pricing, but the Secretary of State for Health has not- this is the moment when we need MPs to call for minimum pricing and help ensure that it becomes government policy.
Up until now, the government has relied largely on voluntary measures by the drinks industry to reduce consumption. Given that the turnover and profitability of the drinks industry is entirely reliant on maintaining or increasing alcohol consumption, there is a clear conflict of interest involved in this approach.
Alcohol Concern are urging people to write to their MP to call for minimum pricing, stating the business case for action. The charity have provided a list of key facts and possible questions to include and a minimum pricing briefing paper. They are also promoting a Twitter hashtag #ActNowOnAlcohol
The Prime Minister David Cameron recently instructed Whitehall officials to look at minimum pricing options according to a Daily Telegraph report. Cameron has repeatedly spoken out on the issue of cheap alcohol, but the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley prefers voluntary action through the controversial Responsibility Deal. The public appear divided on the subject.
Minimum pricing has been at the forefront of the national alcohol policy debate, particularly since the release of research from the University of Sheffield modelling the likely benefits. Supporters cite the link between rising consumption with the falling relative price of alcohol.
However opponents of minimum pricing, such as sections of the alcohol industry and retailers, argue minimum pricing is a blunt measure and could contravene EU legislation. Scotland is currently seeking to introduce a minimum price and so could soon test this, whilst the IFS advise lobbying for EU law changes to allow tax restructuring to achieve a minimum pricing effect.
A 'below cost ban' is due to come in under forthcoming Licensing changes, but the ban is not expected to not expected to affect prices under a 'Duty + VAT' definition of cost. See here for information on why a below cost ban is not minimum pricing and further reports.