It Won't Be Long

The spectre of minimum pricing for alcohol in England edged a little closer this week. For whilst, as RedNev points out, the government are concentrating their own efforts on banning below cost sales, they appear set to give local authorities the power to set a minimum price.

The mechanism for this lies in government plans to enable councils to enact local bylaws without permission, as is current required, from central government. Home Office minister James Brokenshire said: I’m sceptical about applying minimum pricing nationally. It’s about local communities. If local circumstances point in that direction, that’s something local authorities might wish to explore.”

With some local authorities in Greater Manchester already chomping at the bit to curtail drinker’s rights, things are looking partiuclarly bleak locally.

Nor does it seem that we can expect much help from the legal fraternity. Many opponents have been comforted by the belief that the concept was clearly illegal under European competition legislation. This basically protects consumers against price fixing which is what minimum pricing equates to.

However, it seems it’s not sacrosanct and can be overridden in certain circumstances. The “benefit” to public health could be used as grounds to trump any fears of anti-competitive practice.

Kevin Jaquiss, a partner in Manchester law firm Cobbetts, explained: “The legal position is that, on the face of it, if the council leaders can demonstrate they are acting strongly in the interest of public health, they should not fall foul of European laws.”

So it seems once more that the robber barons of Westminster will allow a coach & horses to be driven through legislation in order to satisfy local prejudices. Thereby yet again stiffing the ordinary law-abiding drinker.

You say you want a revolution; you better get it on right away.


Curmudgeon said…
If they can't impose a minimum price for cigarettes on the grounds of public health, it's hard to see how they can do it for alcohol.

I'm sure Tesco's lawyers are sharpening their pencils as I write.
Penny said…
As I understand it, that example is slightly different. That involves national governemnts trying to impose an acrosss the board price.

However it is difficult to argue that all of one country has the same problem and, as was pointed out, there are other solutions available to governments anyway.

Local authorities may argue that they have a specific health problem associated with alcohol. They are very limited to what they can do and don't have recourse to increases in duty, for example, as governments have to tackle these problems.

There are exemptions allowed to EU Directives and it could well be that local alcohol pricing is considered one of them. We shall have to wait and see.
Tyson said…

That is basically what I understand as well. Whether any local action can match the criteria for exemption will no doubted be tested by the legal eagles.

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