An attempt by local authorities in Manchester to impose a minimum price on alcohol has been branded a “publicity stunt” by drinks producers.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), whose 10 member authorities oversee around four million people, have unveiled plans for a by-law setting a 50p per unit minimum price on booze.

But industry figures said the controversial plan – which goes further than the pledge by the coalition government to restrict the below-cost selling of alcohol – would contravene European competition law.

“Campaigners may wish otherwise but local authorities have no legal powers to introduce minimum unit pricing and government ministers have rejected the idea anyway,” said Gavin Partington of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association.

“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 campaigners welcomed the move, while the Home Office said it “welcomes initiatives from local authorities, especially when they are responding to the concerns of local people”.

If adopted, the Manchester councils’ plan would effectively set a floor of £5 for a 13% bottle of wine and £14 for a 70cl bottle of whisky.

Read more
Experts weigh up the options for ban on below-cost booze (analysis; 17 July 2010)
The four price options to curb binge drinking (3 July 2010)
Second Opinion: Minimum pricing doesn’t work (12 June 2010)
Editor's Comment: Why I’m in favour of a minimum price for alcohol (5 June 2010)