Minimum price for alcohol introduced

After much discussion a minimum price for alcohol is to be introduced in some areas of the country.

The first area to be affected by this new trend is Oldham in Lancashire where the local council (who are in charge of issuing licences for premises) has decreed that a minimum price of 75p per unit of alcohol is to be adopted by the towns pubs and bars. This works out at approx £1.90 per pint of premium larger.

This scheme has been introduced following problems with drunkeness and disorder in Oldham centre, and is aimed at consumption by people on a night out rather than those buying from shops and going home to drink.

The BBC are featuring this on their flagship Panorama tv programme.

So will this trend spread accross the UK ?   That depends on the attitude of local councils in England and Wales and local licensing boards in Scotland  – there is no national law to govern the price of alcohol.

No doubt raising the price of alcohol in pubs and bars will decrease consumtion in the town centre areas, but will there be any other effects ?  Well here are some possibilites :

1. Pushing the problem elsewhere – if drinkers choose to seek other areas outside the Oldham district where the minimum price is not enforced (remember there is nothing to force neighbouring councils to follow Oldhams example) then this unilateral action will only divert the problem elsewhere

2. Increasing sales at shops/off licences – if these outlets are not subject to the minimum price then the introduction of a minumim price for bars and pubs may just cause city centre outlets to loose even more customers to Tesco, ASDA and the like.

3. Legal action by pubs and bars against the council – there may be some legal challange to the council since it might be seen to be reducing competition and distorting the market against the principles of free trade.  The legality of such measures has already been questioned by the Law Society of Scotland

Let’s wait and see !

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