ALCOHOL POLICY IS WITHIN EU RULES
The European Commission has made clear that the proposed Scottish Government scheme to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol would fit within European rules on trade and competition.
The Commission’s statement in answer to a Parliamentary Question from a Labour MEP removes drinks industry and opposition arguments over the legality of the proposal.
In the answer the Commission states:
“The Commission recognizes the right of Member States to pursue public health objectives and welcomes, in principle all initiatives which aim at reducing harms to public health, in particular alcohol related harm. Community secondary legislation, including Council Directive 92/83/EEC, does not prohibit Member States from setting minimum retail prices for alcoholic beverages. However, any such national measure and its effects still need to be compatible with other provisions of Community law, including the EC Treaty’s rules on the free movement of goods (Articles 28-30 EC).”
Referring to a Court ruling that price controls could impact on competition and imported products the Commission’s answer states:
“On the other hand this would not be the case if pricing rules applied to all relevant traders operating within the national territory and if they affected in the same manner, in law and in fact, the marketing of domestic and imported products.”
Commenting on the statement SNP MEP Ian Hudghton, a substitute member of the Parliament’s Internal Market committee said :
“The SNP and the Scottish Government have always been clear that minimum pricing on alcohol is both legal and necessary. This answer makes clear that the proposal for minimum pricing on alcohol is well within EU law and kills off opposition and industry suggestions to the contrary.
“The Commission have made it perfectly plain that the plan set out by the Scottish Government would be within trade rules, and that the European Court has already ruled that this kind of action is permissible. Instead of using European rules as an excuse to oppose what is a much needed change to Scotland’s relationship with alcohol it is time for opposition parties and the industry itself to accept the evidence and to support the policy.
“It is disturbing that attempts to attack the policy on legal grounds have come from those interested in the premium end of the drinks market which will be relatively unaffected. All the evidence indicates that increasing the price of problem drinks such as cheap beers and ciders will improve health and cut irresponsible alcohol consumption – as well as helping to reduce the £2.5 billion cost to Scotland’s public services of alcohol related problems.
“Minimum pricing has the support of all of the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and the WHO amongst others. As the SNP Scottish Government brings in the legislation for minimum pricing it is time the opposition and the industry joined them.”