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Alcohol (Minimum Price)

Volume 505: debated on Tuesday 2 February 2010

12. What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the revenue which would accrue to the Exchequer if proposals for a minimum price for alcohol were implemented. (314439)

There are a number of different approaches available if proposals for a minimum price for alcohol were implemented. The revenue impacts, which could be positive or negative, would depend on the level of any minimum price and the way in which minimum pricing was implemented.

Does the Minister agree that such proposals might lead to increased prices on imported alcohol? How does she think our trading partners would react?

We would have to take such a consideration into account if we were introducing minimum pricing. Duty alone could not deliver minimum pricing for alcohol products, but when we consider changes to duty rates, we have to consider impacts on the industry, as well as on Exchequer revenues.

Why is the Treasury so against a unit price for alcohol below which it cannot be sold by anyone, including supermarkets?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I refer him to the answer that I gave to the original question. We cannot use alcohol duty alone as a mechanism to deliver minimum pricing for alcohol products; there are a number of practical and legislative constraints. We are, of course, always willing to consider the matter further and to consult other colleagues about it.

Like the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon), the Health Secretary appears enthusiastic about minimum pricing, but it would hit responsible drinkers hard, without any benefit to the public finances. I know that much of the Government’s economic policy is back to the 1970s, but setting the price of goods is surely a step too far. Instead of trying to fix prices, should they not try and fix the problem and raise taxes on problem drinks, rather than on responsible drinkers?

I must remind the hon. Gentleman that there is an EU rates and structure directive that means that beers and spirits must be taxed in proportion to alcohol content, and wines and cider must be taxed in bands of alcohol strength, which constrains what we can do on specific drinks. Also, alcohol duty is paid by producers. That applies equally, regardless whether products are sold in pubs or supermarkets. Many of the problems cited by hon. Members are not about responsible drinkers in pubs, but about the prices charged in supermarkets. As I said, alcohol duty alone cannot deliver a solution.