Government proposes 45p minimum unit price for alcohol

28th November, 2012 by Andy Young

The home secretary Theresa May has today proposed a higher-than-expected minimum price of 45p a unit for the sale of alcohol in England and Wales.

The government is proposing a 45p per unit minimum alcohol priceThe government has launched a 10-week consultation “on a range of measures to cut crime, save lives and reduce alcohol consumption.”

The proposals are part of the government’s plans for a “clampdown on binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour”.

It was expected that the government would back a 40p per unit minimum price. A 50p per unit minimum price has already been proposed by the Scottish Parliament, which is now subjected to a legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association and the European Spirits Organisation.

Earlier this year db reported on who will profit from the 50p per unit pricing in Scotland.

In today’s announcement about the 10-week consultation the Home Office has confirmed five key areas of action:

• a ban on multi-buy promotions

• a review of the mandatory licensing conditions

• a minimum unit price of 45p

• a new health-related objective for alcohol licensing

• cutting red tape for responsible businesses

Policing Minister Damian Green said: “These measures are not about stopping responsible drinking but designed to tackle the minority who cause alcohol-related crime and disorder in our local communities.

But Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association said the government could find itself in a similar position to the Scottish government – facing a legal challenge to minimum pricing.

Beale said: “It is hard to understand why the Government is pushing ahead with the consultation now, when there is a wall of opposition in Europe, a legal challenge in Scotland, a lack of any real evidence to support minimum unit pricing, opposition from consumers and concerns raised from within Cabinet itself.

“Minimum unit pricing and the proposed restrictions to promotions are wholly untargeted and will unfairly punish millions of consumers and businesses in the UK, while doing nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse or associated crime and disorder.

“There is no evidence that minimum unit pricing will tackle alcohol misuse – in fact the international evidence suggests that problem drinkers are the least likely to be deterred by price rises.

“However, we do welcome the Government’s decision to consult on its Alcohol Strategy over a 10-week period.

“Alcohol misuse is a serious and complex problem for a small number of people in this country. We recognise this and are committed to tackling alcohol misuse – but there is no silver bullet. A wide range of policies are required to address problem drinking, including improving education, better enforcement and building on what already works.”

The British Retail Consortium’s food director Andrew Opie agreed that the government’s proposals may unfairly target responsible drinkers and do little to deter alcohol misuse.

He said: “Most major retailers believe minimum pricing and controls on promotions are unfair to most customers. They simply penalise the vast majority, who are perfectly responsible drinkers, while doing nothing to reduce irresponsible drinking.

“Harmful drinking has cultural causes and retailers are tackling those with collaborative working on clear labelling and targeted awareness campaigns that help customers drink responsibly. Where’s the evidence that imposing a blanket measure that puts up prices for all customers will make a difference?

“Most people already drink less than recommended limits. There is no reason why they should be denied access to discounts.”

But Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the Royal College of Physicians’ special adviser on alcohol and chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, backed the government’s plans, although he would like to see a higher minimum price.

He said: “The evidence shows us that heavy drinkers and young drinkers are more affected by higher alcohol prices than moderate drinkers.

“According to the University of Sheffield, a minimum unit price of 50p would reduce total alcohol consumption by 6.7%, saving around 20,000 hospital admissions in the first year. 40p would not be anywhere near as effective.”

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Alcohol abuse costs the NHS £3bn every year and nursing staff witness first hand the social costs of binge drinking every day. Alcohol abuse causes long-term health conditions, increases crime, destroys families and puts A&E staff at risk from violence, all of which are totally unacceptable. As long as alcohol is available at a heavily discounted price, these will continue.”

5 Responses to “Government proposes 45p minimum unit price for alcohol”

  1. John Freeland says:

    How will the Government monitor this, will they impose it as a ‘tax’ added to the duty, and plus VAT of course?
    I can see another rush of across the channel booze cruises, along with the ‘undetected white van man’ supplying all and sundry

    • Kevin Marshall says:

      I would like to know as well. All what I can see is that the retail price is to be set at retail, with no additional costs. A 2 litre bottle of strong (6%) cider can be obtained for £1.95 in at least one major supermarket (less at two discount supermarkets). New retail price £5.40. But there is no proposal for an increase in excise duties.

  2. Jem Gardener says:

    I’m not in possession of any evidence of the effectiveness of these measures. I am firstly a UK citizen, secondly the father of two young children who will one day no doubt be interested in alcohol, thirdly a resident in a student area where binge drinking is apparently rife (local supermarkets pile up cheap alcohol wherever they can) and fourthly a wine importer. Am I alone in thinking (a gut feeling) that minimum pricing MIGHT help? And am I alone in feeling that industry bodies don’t entirely represent my views and seem irresponsibly self-interested about this issue? Dealing with the larger issues in society (whilst an admirable intent) is also a naive and time-wasting response to a very immediate problem. Do I trust the medical profession more than I trust people who just want to sell more alcohol? I’m inclined to…

  3. ALLAN CHEESMAN says:

    Yet more nonsense from the nanny state aided by misguided medics and anti alcohol zealots! Of course there are those with alcohol problems and they should be helped but do not penalise sensible drinkers that these promotion proposals will do. Price will not deter those who crave alcohol and this will merely revitalise the joys of cross Channel shopping and the illegal white van traffic.Actually I thought drinking among the young was decreasing and alcohol consumption in this country has been falling for years?

  4. Tanglinmo says:

    I am a pensioner and enjoy a glass of perry wine. If this goes ahead then my favourite perry will DOUBLE in price. So I will only get a glass every other day!!

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