Minimum pricing by back door

A leading health chief championing minimum pricing in Greater Manchester has spoken of plans to help roll out the controversial measure nationally.

Mike Jones, alcohol programme manager at the Greater Manchester Public Health Network, told delegates at OLN’s Responsible Drinks Retailing Conference: “If we get it accepted as a bylaw there will be a domino effect across the country.” He said he had been speaking to councils in Jersey, Sussex, Devon, Shropshire and the north east.

His statement came as a draft report was unveiled by the Greater Manchester Health Commission, which said a bylaw should be used to prevent alcohol being sold for less than 50p a unit.

Trade leaders have criticised the proposals, calling them “unworkable” and confusing for retailers.

A breach of the bylaw would result in a maximum fine of £500 for any outlet not complying, including supermarkets, off-licences and pubs.

The report said the minimum price of 50p would also be reviewed annually to reflect inflation. Under the proposals, drinkers in the region would have to pay at least £6 for a six-pack of lager and £4.50 for a standard bottle of wine.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “We strongly oppose imposing a minimum price at a local level as this would create significant inconsistency for retailers. It would result in loss of business as people look to shop in other areas depending on individual pricing policies.”?Mark Baird, corporate social responsibility manager at Diageo GB, said the plan would bring “chaos”.

“Only this week Sheffield’s director of public health issued a report which confirms what we have known for some time to be true – that the wealthiest in society are the most likely to drink alcohol to excessive and dangerous levels,” he said.

“These people will pay no heed to price rises, while less well-off responsible drinkers will be penalised. The fact that Manchester is looking to convince other authorities to create a domino effect suggests it knows the chaos that a localised minimum pricing regime would bring as alcohol tourism to cheaper neighbouring towns could become the norm.”?The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities executive board meets today (November 26) to discuss the report.