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.


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

    Comment number 802.

    It is cool being drunk in UK. We are drunk; whatever the price, whichever country we visit, whatever gender we belong to.

    This can only be corrected by heavy social engineering via public media similar to how racism was eradicated; persecution with zero tolerance and constant humiliation directed at being drunk.

    Otherwise, nothing will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    if beers cheap at the pump you can make a nice evening of a night out, Now pubs are so expensive u cant afford to drink at the bar and have to crap the alcohol into the pre pub/club period. Dont raise price cut the price at the pub if you want to sort the problem out...if supermarkets raise prices next problem with be cheap foreign beers being brought in by the van load and that will make itworse

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    This is complete nonsense and more to do with revenue raising than health or social problems. We already have some of the most expensive alcohol in Europe (Scandinavia excepted). Our problems are more to do with education than pricing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    Presumably the heavily subsidised alcohol served in the bars at the houses of parliament will also be included in this proposal ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    Nifty bit of news management here - and I see Robinson is following Central Office's line. Can look forward to young bingers all over the news all day. Shame he doesn't address important issues like the budget, the NHS and the ongoing government campaign against public services. I despair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    Why not just enforce the numerous laws we already have on the books, and make being drunk at the time an aggravating factor rather than a mitigating factor?

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    As the government appears happy to set the minimum price for alcohol perhaps it would like to intervene with some similar maximum prices,for fuel,utilities and public transport.

    If you can interfere with the market where there is one perceived (if frankly unreal) problem why not with more significant issues?

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    This is sure to restart the booze cruise to Calais.

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    The minimum price of alcohol cannot be high enough. There should be enough tax on it so that it can pay for all the problems associated with it (Heathcare, police, fire, rioting etc). I dream of a society where tenants special doesn't exist and there are no happy hours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    BBC, if the Scots do split from the UK, can you please give them their own boards so that they turn every debate into one over independence? :P

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    But has any one asked why people drink to get drunk.

    The French have started to get this with the young people. The USA have had it as long as the British. The Dutch do it. But why?

    I was working in Munich in 1999 when ManU were playing. The German fans, although loud and tipsy, were none the less, polite, good natured and well behaved.

    Most ManU fans made me cringe.

    Upbringing shows.

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    Good start, now the BIG BIG ONE. Give tax relief to PUBS so people are encouraged to drink socially, meet their friends and family, have a laugh, ie do something beneficial instead of making a prat of themselves because they really do not know what to do on a night out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    Great news, it's going to be 'open-house' at the speak-easy. 20p for a litre of bathtub moonshine!

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    Speaking as a teetotaller, I'd just like to point out that alcohol is NOT needed to enjoy life, 'enhance' a night-out, or even to relax after a stressfull day. If you believe that it does, perhaps you should take a long look at that fact first?

    Also keep in mind that alcohol is an addictive drug, and that may well be colouring your judgement on this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    What the government have failed to take into account is that alcholics will always find away to finance their habit. Increasing the price doesn't solve the underlying issues, it just means most people will have to buy in cheap from the supermarket and have to drink at home- they simply won't be able to afford to go out. Don't price the poor out of fun do more in terms of medical help & education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    There is an abundance of good legislation which would prevent the scenes we see every night on the streets of towns and cities resulting in pain and misery for so many. The home secretary knows, or should know this. The millions wasted should be spent on more robust policing of those selling buying and abusing alcohol. However that wont put money going into the government coffers will it ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    The price of alcohol, will not change the amount people drink. If people want to go out they will drink no matter what the price is. More and more people will drink at home before they go out. Alcohol is always going to be bought - this isn't about cutting down binge drinking it's about making money. It won't make people drink any less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    Thanks for penalising those who enjoy a quiet drink at home ! The attitude to alcohol and being out of control needs to change. They don't have this problem in Europe. Less alcohol on TV soaps, less pictures of 'celebs' getting ratted in magazines and in thre press. Getting drunk is something to be ashamed of, not glorified. Attitudes need to change. It worked with smoking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    Looks like collective punishment is the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    @728.ScottishToalie - great post. Agree entirely with what you said. Binge crisp eating made me chuckle.


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