Minimum alcohol price could be illegal

Posted:

19 March 2012

by James Daniels

A proposed minimum price on alcohol, which was proposed to curb the UK’s problem with drinking, may not be possible under EU law.

This argument comes from the Scotch Whisky Association, who claim that the proposed policy would impede free trade within Europe - a clear violation of EU trade rules.

Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the SWA, whose members are responsible for the employment of 35,000 in the UK alone, has voiced his opposition to such a policy in the past, arguing that a minimum price alone would not bring about "a more healthy, positive and responsible attitude to alcohol".

The SWA added that a similar attempt to control alcohol prices in the Netherlands had failed after it was blocked by the European Court of Justice.

Imposing regulations to combat alcohol abuse has been mooted for some time, with David Cameron giving his support to a limit on cheap alcohol last month. More recently, a minimum price for alcohol was approved in principle by the Scottish Parliament last week, with no MPs voting in opposition to the policy.

The hope is that a minimum price on alcohol would prevent the UK’s drinking culture from spiraling even further out of control, as the charity Alcohol Concern has predicted that alcohol-related hospital admissions will reach 1.5 million a year by 2015. Home Secretary Theresa May has said that controlling the price will reduce premature deaths and other drink-related social problems.

However, opposition in the UK parliament has been fierce, and with many members of the Prime Minister’s own cabinet voicing their opposition, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Education Secretary Michael Gove described the plans as "an assault on civil liberty".

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