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Alcohol: minimum pricing

Published Thursday, August 29, 2019

This Briefing Paper looks at the minimum pricing of alcohol.

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The debate about a minimum price for alcohol has been prompted by concerns about high levels of drinking, its effect on public health and public order, and a widespread belief that most of the alcohol that contributes to drunken behaviour is irresponsibly priced and sold.

One policy option is to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol (MUP). Another is to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price (the level of alcohol duty plus VAT). 

Licensing policy in Scotland

Alcohol licensing is a devolved matter. In June 2012, the Scottish Government passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Scotland Act 2012. The Act amended the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 and paved the way for the introduction of MUP. The Scottish Whisky Association unsuccessfully challenged the legislation in the European and Scottish courts.

A minimum price of 50p per unit has been in place since 1 May 2018.

Licensing policy in England and Wales

A ban on selling alcohol below the level of alcohol duty plus VAT has been in place since 28 May 2014. This was introduced through the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Conditions) Order 2014.

In July 2019, the Government said: "There are currently no plans to implement minimum unit pricing in England. However, we will keep this under review as evidence emerges from Scotland".

Public health policy in Wales 

The Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol)(Wales) Act 2018 received Royal Assent on 9 August 2018. The Act enables the introduction of MUP on public health grounds, an area within the Welsh Assembly’s legislative competence. An MUP of 50p is expected to come into force in early 2020.

Commons Briefing papers SN05021

Author: John Woodhouse

Topic: Licensing

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