Brewer backs law on prices

THE boss of Suffolk-based pubs and brewing group Greene King has backed plans by the Scottish government to introduce minimum alcohol pricing.

Rooney Anand, chief executive of Bury St Edmunds-based Greene King, which owns the Belhaven brewing business in Scotland as well as many pubs north of the border, said he believed minimum pricing would “go to the very heart” of the problems associated with excessive driinking.

The Scottish Nationalist Party failed to win the backing of opposition parties for minimum pricing last year, when it was in a minority administration at Hollyrood, but having since formed a majority government it is planning to launch a new Bill next month.

Mr Anand said: “We have consistently argued that the solution must be proportionate to the problem and should not penalise the majority of responsible drinkers.

“That is why we believe a minimum price for alcohol would go to the very heart of the problem.”

Following last year’s General Election, Greene King called for the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition to consider a minimum pricing approach across the UK.

The company says that while taxation can go some way towards tackling irresponsible drinking, minimum pricing offers an opportunity for a more targeted approach, for example by discouraging consumption of high-strength lagers and ciders while not hitting responsible drinkers of products such as sherry or real ale.

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Last December, Greene King published research commissioned from FTI Consulting which described the approach of discouraging consumption through taxation as “a blunt instrument”.

The study, commissioned by the company in response to a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, also challenged a claim by the IFS that minimum pricing would generate a profit to the UK alcohol industry, using HM Revenue & Customs data to indicate that minimum pricing could, in fact, cost the industry �590million to �1.2billion a year.

The FTI report concluded that, in contrast with increased taxation, minimum pricing would provide a targeted solution to problem drinking by raising the price of the cheapest alcohol and so tackling directly the behaviour causing most concern.