Minimum drink pricing meets stiff opposition

The Government's plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol will be blocked by the courts, the drinks industry says.

Shops in England and Wales would be banned from charging under 45p for a unit of alcohol or from running "buy one, get one free" promotions under the scheme announced yesterday. The Government hopes the moves, which would add £3 to a cheap bottle of vodka, will reduce binge drinking and the cost of alcohol-related ill-health. However, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association says the Government will struggle to make the proposals law.

The Scottish Parliament is already facing legal challenges over its decision to introduce a 50p-per-unit minimum north of the border. Wine-producing countries such as France and Spain have protested to the European Commission that the legislation breaches EU trade law; the Scotch Whisky Association and the European Spirits Organisation have also appealed against it.

Miles Beale, head of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said it was "breath-taking that the Government intends pushing ahead" with its proposals. Home Office sources said the Government was monitoring the legal challenges against the Scottish minimum price and was "in discussions" with the European Commission.