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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  • Comment number 762.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    713.Aaron Broxham

    If they tired to enter drunk they should have been refused entry.
    If they were being served drinks inside this is the pub's/club's fault.

    Don't blame supermarkets or penalise sensible drinkers or pre-drinkers, blame those complicit in letting them in and getting them drunker.
    Ever ran a Bar... you dont have a clue !

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    We all must assume that this will also apply to the subsidised bars in parliament as it would appear that from recent events binge drinking and rowdy behaviour also takes place in Westminster.

    If you believe the above you must also believe that pigs can fly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    £2.99 for a bottle of wine?! Ha, it's ~5 yrs ago I last saw this! Alcohol in this country is already overpriced! What's going to happen: the gov will price out alcohol produced here, killing a lot of small businesses too and people will just go to homebrew, illegal distilling, smuggling or do the booze cruise over to France more often, filling the boot of their cars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    Raising the cost won't solve it. People will:
    1. Find alternatives (which may be unregulated/dangerous),
    2. Go out less often, but still make it a 'big' night when they do
    3. Make savings elsewhere to make it affordable again

    Surely the solution is in:
    1. Education.
    2. More public/social discussion on what is (and isn't) acceptable behaviour.
    3. Use the laws to deal with bad behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    Whilst I agree that there is an issue with drink in Britain, this is definately not the way to go about sorting it. It's a bit like dousing the ashes after the fire burned down the house. What this will do is make people who have a problem choose between food and booze, and whats the competiton if your alchoholic? Like a plaster on a stab wound, it will not work. It runs deeper than a price tag.

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    Binge drinking in my opinion is a form of escapism from the repressed depressive lives most people live out. Working jobs that crush the human spirit and are in effect pointless and are only there as a form of slavery, with prices rising in almost everything of course people are going to let there hair down for a night or two when the week they exist in is probably more harmful to their wellbeing

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    this is punishing the sensible with higher prices :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    So an extra 37p on a pack of ciggies in the budget & now a minimum price for alcohol....

    ...What a great week for the black marketeers & the counterfeiters!

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    Getting drunk before going out is a sign that pubs are far too expensive and not that shops are too cheap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    Too much alcohol is bad for you - proven fact - and if you can't afford it, you shouldn't do it. Increasing the cost of drinking in pubs is wrong - pubs close at the rate of about 7 a week, each with a loss of probably 10 jobs - some part-time, some full-time. You never hear about job-losses in the drinks industry but it's probably greater than in many other areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    This is just another stupid tax to raise more money for overspending governments.Tthe people causing the problem should have to pay,if you end up in A&E because of drink charge them for the treatment.
    Keeping everyone in detention for the misdemeanour's of the few is pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    talk about a nanny state, this Government far surpasses Labour in that school of thought. Please governments have to understand that people can make their own choices and need to trust us. As others have said tackle the problem people rather than punish all. Will the subsidised bars in Westminster be effected by this? In fact they are paid more than the majority so why subsidise them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    Just thought you would like to know that the announcement by GSK GlaxoSmith Kline was a planned announcement to be done after the budget. And the jobs will more than likely be in the region of 250 and not a 1000. Oh and don't forget none of this will come to fruition for another 8 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    Curious that of the recent reports of people being drunk, the one that stands out most is an MP drinking at the House and he got more lightly than he should. Prices there are heavily subsidised and I bet they keep it that way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    I'm old enough to remember Gorby's war on booze (and I lived in the USSR at the time). People didn't stop drinking, they just cut on buying and started making their own, but the government finances were seriously undermined.

    With alcohol prices in Britain already significantly higher than on the Continent, couldn't the present government find more important things to do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    674 Stated ....."That way a drink containing 5 units would cost £5.20 but a drink with 2 units would cost £1.00. This would allow moderate drinking".

    Err, no it wouldn't, It would result in lots more 2 unit drinks being consumed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    1) I think a return to old fashioned licensing and (more importantly) policing would have a far more appreciable effect on public drunkenness and anti social behaviour. Just when did it become OK to get totally hammered in order to have a good time?
    2) The bigger concern should be the liver disease time bomb facing the middle classes drinking a few G&Ts and a bottle of wine a night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    It only affects the paintstripper sold as alcohol in supermarkets etc it won't affect alcohol prices in pubs and restaurants.
    This is a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    Min pricing is not the correct solution, at least not alone. This penalises responsible drinkers & poor. Mid-to-high earners will continue just as before, as the increase will be less felt.

    Deal with this by being hard on those who binge drink & cause problems. Heavy fines for drunk & disorderly, bans from drinking. Hard to enforce, but maybe drinking licenses would help (& cut underage drinking)


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