Councils in the Greater Manchester area are planning a by-law that would set a minimum price of alcohol of 50p. The proposal is not final, drawing it up is complex and it would need the approval of central Government. It would be the first by-law giving Councils the power to set prices. The area covered by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities covers nearly four million people and includes Manchester, Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham.
Enforcing the price controls would mean a considerable extra administrative function for the Councils given all the pubs, supermarkets and off-licences concerned. I haven't seen any figures as to the cost of all the extra Council snoopers that would be required if the new regime was to be enforced.
The minimum price would go well beyond thee government's's proposal that alcohol should not be sold below cost. It would mean drinkers paying at least £4.50 for a standard-sized bottle of wine, £6 for a six-pack of lager and £14 for a 700ml bottle of whisky. Would there be the equivalent of the "booze cruises" to Lancashire and Cheshire?
Gavin Partington at the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, says:
“There is a substantial body of legal opinion that suggests minimum unit pricing of alcohol is illegal under European law. Some campaigners may wish otherwise but local authorities have no legal powers to introduce minimum unit pricing and Government ministers have rejected the idea anyway.
“A 50p per unit minimum price would not address the problem of alcohol misuse. In fact it would simply raise prices for the vast majority who drink responsibly.”
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said minimum pricing would be "regressive." He is concerned:
“There are many low income households who don't drink irresponsibly but where this would have a significant effect."