Minimum alcohol price planned for England and Wales

 

Home Secretary Theresa May: "People who like going to their local pub have nothing to fear"

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The government is proposing a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol in England and Wales in an effort to "turn the tide" against binge drinking.

It believes this could transform the behaviour of those who cause the most problems for hospitals and police.

A new alcohol strategy also aims to help local areas tackle problems and work with the drinks industry to encourage responsible drinking.

Some in the industry suggest minimum pricing would face a court challenge.

The industry said a minimum price was misguided and would hit consumers hard.

Similar proposals are already being considered by the Scottish Parliament.

Under the minimum price proposal, such as at the suggested 40p level, it would act as a floor and retailers would not be allowed to offer alcohol cheaper than that.

Sobriety schemes

While most prices would be unaffected, it could significantly alter the price of heavily-discounted ciders, super-strength lager and cheap spirits.

Minimum alcohol pricing graphic

The impact could include:

  • A £2.99 bottle of red wine, containing 9.4 units of alcohol, would be priced up to £3.76
  • Cheap, strong lager at 75p a can, with three units per can, would become at least £1.20
  • Bulk-bought strong cider, costing 87p a can and containing four units, would almost double to at least £1.60
  • Cheap supermarket whisky at £16.10, with 40 units of alcohol, would probably be unchanged in price

A proposed ban on multi-buy offers would affect top-end promotions, such as a percentage discount on a half-case of wine, as well as the likes of buy-one-get-one-free budget deals.

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David Cameron is ignoring the conventional political advice about how to cheer up voters”

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The alcohol strategy also seeks to give local agencies an "extensive range of tools and powers" to tackle problem drinkers and premises, such as by restricting opening hours and density of licensed premises.

It also plans to "end the notion that drinking is an unqualified right by piloting sobriety schemes for those people whose offending is linked to excessive alcohol consumption", says the strategy document.

Plans are outlined to work with the drinks industry on "changing the drinking culture, from one of excess to one of responsibility; and from one where alcohol is linked to bad behaviour to one where it is linked to positive 'socialising'".

'Mayhem and fear'

Prime Minister David Cameron said the government wanted to turn around a drinking culture that last year had contributed to one million alcohol-related violent crimes and 1.2 million hospital admissions.

Analysis

It is often said that alcohol is getting cheaper. That is not strictly true.

Over the last 25 years the price of booze has been rising at a faster rate than other goods and services.

The problem is that disposable income has gone up more, meaning we have more money to spend on luxury items and many of us are choosing to use that on alcohol.

Consumption has doubled since the 1950s and there are now 10 million adults drinking more than they should.

The effect can be seen across society. Alcohol-related hospital admissions, crime and disorder and absence from work are all higher than they were a decade ago.

The hope is that setting a minimum price might alter that.

Unlike banning below-cost selling, which is being introduced in England and Wales in April to stop drinks being sold at less than the tax paid on them, it affects the majority of drinks sold outside pubs.

But does this stop people consuming too much? The evidence suggests it might. Modelling by Sheffield University in 2008 found increasing price reduces consumption most among hazardous and harmful drinkers.

Mr Cameron said: "Binge drinking isn't some fringe issue, it accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in this country. The crime and violence it causes drains resources in our hospitals, generates mayhem on our streets and spreads fear in our communities."

He added: "We're consulting on the actual price, but if it is 40p that could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol related deaths per year by the end of the decade."

Home Secretary Theresa May said that just under the cheapest fifth of all alcohol sold would be affected by introducing a 40p minimum.

"Too many people think it's a great night out to get really drunk and have a fight in our streets," she told BBC Breakfast.

"What we need to do is to set a price that is actually going to ensure that we don't damage responsible drinkers. People who like a drink or two, who like going down their local pub, have nothing to fear from this policy."

Ministers say the minimum pricing could help pubs because it would stop supermarkets offering cheaper alternatives.

The strategy also includes a plan for a late-night levy to make clubs and pubs help pay for policing.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Labour Party supported the idea of a minimum unit price, subject to debate about where it should be set to ensure it worked.

"The government needs to make sure it does not just create a cash windfall for the supermarkets, instead of lowering prices of other goods or supporting better prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse to cut crime further and save lives," she said.

Competition law

Just three months ago, the government said it thought minimum pricing would be incompatible with European competition law.

Units of alcohol

  • Bottle (75cl) of wine - 10 units
  • Small (125ml) glass of wine - 1.5 units
  • Standard (175ml) glass of wine - 2.1 units
  • Large (250ml) glass of wine - 3 units
  • Pint of weaker (3.6%) beer - 2 units
  • Pint of stronger (5.2%) beer - 3 units
  • Bottle (330ml) of beer - 1.7 units
  • Can (440ml) of beer - 2 units
  • Alcopop bottle (275ml) - 1.5 units
  • Small (25ml) shot of spirits - 1 unit
  • Large (35ml) shot of spirits - 1.4 units

Source: NHS

Gavin Partington, interim chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said he thought a minimum price move would be "highly likely" to face a legal challenge from a drinks company.

But he expressed concern the proposal could prove to be a "Trojan horse for tax", and if minimum pricing failed to make it through the courts then the government might simply increase duty on alcohol.

"I think one has to be quite sceptical," he said. "Only a few months ago you have got two ministers saying they understand it to be probably illegal, and suddenly now they are advocating it - I don't think the legal position has changed any."

Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, said: "Irresponsible drinking has cultural causes and retailers have been hugely engaged in information and education to change attitudes to drinking.

"It's a myth to suggest that supermarkets are the problem or that a pub is somehow a safer drinking environment. Effectively, a minimum price is a tax on responsible drinkers."

However, the proposal has received a cautious welcome from some in the drinks industry, such as C&C Group, which makes Magners cider and Tennent's lager.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, of the Royal College of Physicians and the Alcohol Health Alliance, welcomed the proposals.

Eric Appleby, Alcohol Concern: "We welcome this"

"Health care workers who struggle every day to cope with the impact of our nation's unhealthy drinking will welcome tough new policies in areas such as price and licensing that are based on evidence and should bring about real benefits," he said.

Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, the lead on alcohol for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "Week in, week out, in town centres across the country, the police have to deal with the consequences of cheap alcohol and irresponsible drinking.

"The growing trend for 'pre-loading' means that young people are often drunk before they even enter a bar.

"By the time they hit the streets at closing they are more likely to get involved in crime and disorder or injure themselves or others."

What is a unit of alcohol?

 

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 782.

    First of all where is the extra money we going?

    Just because a small proportion of 12-18 year olds can't control their drinking habit we all get clobbered!

    If this is a crime stopping initiative " could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year" they say, then why not give out free cocaine, weed, and heroin that measure would eradicate crime in this country overnight.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 781.

    Its about time we legalized some of the less harmful soft drugs and quadrupled the price of poisonous alcohol. I cant understand how any government can call itself civilized by perpetuating the genocide caused by forcing alcohol on people. Its a disgrace and you should all be ashamed of putting up with it through prejudice and ignorance.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 780.

    I think it's a good idea but has a few flaws. I believe alcohol taxes should be aimed at the super markets who at the moment can considerably undercut the pubs.

    Pubs should have less tax as they cannot keep up with the low prices the supermarket has. I come from the countryside where we are losing good village pubs all the time for this reason. Pubs are the community in the small villages.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 779.

    I wonder if the increase in binge drinking amongst young people has anything to do with the fact that a large number of them don't have jobs or the prospect of jobs, nothing to get up for the next day, so why not get drunk. I think increasing the prices will help a bit, but maybe the government would do better looking at the underlying cause of this issue?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 778.

    Just checked how effective this is in the local Sainsbury's, the only drink that would rise in price is Sainsbury's Basics 3l bottle of cider, by 7p. Seriously what is the point!?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 777.

    Been saying for ages that they should split duty between bottled/canned drinks and measures served in pubs in glasses, increase one, decrease the other.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 776.

    Parliament passed five major Acts, between 1729 and 1751, designed to control the consumption of gin. Gin consumption was reduced not as a result of legislation but because of the rising cost of grain. Landowners could afford to abandon the production of gin, and this coupled with population growth and a series of poor harvests, resulted in lower wages and increased food prices.
    Oops....!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 775.

    And, hilariously, the Lib Dems, Labour and Tories up here in Scotland, after blocking the measure in the minority SNP government and calling it ludicrious, are now meekly following their London masters and agreeing it's an excellent plan. Not that Salmond needs them to get it through any more....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 774.

    Great news about the minimum price on a unit of alcohol. Cheap readily available booze is a significant cause of many of the drink related problems in our society, from poor health, to domestic abuse, to vandalism, to fighting in our town centres. I am prepared to pay a few more quid for a drink, if it means a better Britain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 773.

    This government need cutting..load of lying odious creeps
    why are they (yet again) penalising the many for the actions of the irresponsible few,sounds like their policies on rewarding the rich as per and penalising the poorer members of society , which are due to this horrilbe government many actions to make society poorer
    It is time for revolts against their unfair and nasty rule

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 772.

    Minimum pricing for alcohol is not going to do anything other than raise some revenue for the government especially if set to the proposed 40p per unit. Sure a bottle of super-strong industrial cleaner commonly known as "white cider" will be £1 or £2 more but that's not going to deter anyone! Simple fact of the matter people who want to buy alcohol will buy it regardless of the price.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 771.

    Who actually comes out with these Ideas. I remember when the Government decided to increase the price on cigarettes with the idea of making them to expensive for the smoker. Hello bootleg tobacco and cigarettes. Check out the allowance for EU booze allowed to be brought into the country. But of course the drinker is to confused to think of that one!!!. Bring back smoking in pups (optional)

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 770.

    "The growing trend for 'pre-loading' means that young people are often drunk before they even enter a bar." - Chief Constable Jon Stoddart

    Isn't he aware that it's illegal for a licensee to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk? Shouldn't the police be dealing with THAT aspect?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 769.

    This surely goes some way toward banning the drinks that exsist to get you drunk. Why not ban them totally? Supermarket larger, cheap spirits and huge bottles of larger that are cheaper then pop are there to allow you to drink alcohol for the sake of it. The drinks that are 'necessarily' alcoholic such as £ real ale, ££ wine and £££ spirits exsist for their flavour, not just to get drunk.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 768.

    The government and ministers are on the media everywhere saying that international research and history evidences that price increases reduces alcohol abuse and disorderly conduct.

    But where is this evidence?? I can see nothing that supports the government's position on this, and evidence from other countries seems contradictory.

    More policies based on revenue generation rather than evidence.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 767.

    Raising the cost will have no effect on binge drinking. Binge drinking is escapism for having no prospects and a bleak future. Still, if the government succeed in their aim of putting as many people in debt as possible then the Nanny State will be achieved. No more drinking, socialising, just fit healthy people prepared to work off their debts until they drop dead.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 766.

    Love that so many people want to charge drunks for NHS treatment at A&E.
    So, lets also charge all smokers for any NHS treatment that they need, after all, its self inflicted. Oh, anyone attempted suicide, lets charge them for NHS treatment as well. Any car drivers need treatment after a crash? Cars are so dangerous, lets charge them as well, after all, the ambulance is already chargeable there.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 765.

    Education not pricing is the key. Alcohol is a CLASS A drug by any definition. If people can accept this fact they may take some action to moderate their consumption. My children had just one drug / drink awareness lesson in their whole 13 years at school. Plenty of religious / citizenship lessons though. David Cameron please take note.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 764.

    I'm not against this, but has anyone thought about other causes, like people having nothing better to do because they're unemployed, or perhaps other reasons? People who want to drown their sorrows might just turn to drugs if the underlying problem isn't dealt with, whatever it is.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 763.

    Theres only so many ways one can move the chairs on the Titanic before it sinks. Same with alcohol, you can only offer so many alternatives before you sink, in booze! If youre drinking for the effect, i.e. being tipsy or even drunk 3 or 4 times a week, youre an alcoholic - I'm sorry. 14U for ladies & 21U for guys is the recommended unit value should define your spending (and health) - simplez!

 

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