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
    +4

    Comment number 882.

    About time. Alcohol abuse is a major issue in this country and many still seem to be blind to this. I like a drink occasionally but was brought up to "know your limit" and STOP when you reach it. We have got to the place where being drunk is cool, it's not, and it's sad if this is your idea of a good time!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 881.

    "24hr cafe society" was a naive mistake.
    I lived in central London for a few years and was horrified with the sound of drunks and fights at all hrs every night. We have allowed booze to become too cheap - increasing levies and restricting licences is politically unpopular but the experiment has failed. Time to get back to old ways.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 880.

    How about we legalise Cannabis while we are at it? I say this in all seriousness as I believe that we will see a reduction in drunk and disorderly people, plus the amount they could raise through taxes would clear a big chunk of our deficit! Surely it is our choice what we put in our body, and we should deal with any consequences.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 879.

    This tax on alcohol is set to be a major revenue raiser for the Govt. When you see the swingeing cuts that will happen to our services & communities , coupled with the lack of opportunity and the unfair system that rewards the (morally bereft) rich financially and through a "justice" system more about legality than justice. Then we will be seeing more people turning to alcohol as hope dies.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 878.

    I can only echo many of the comments posted here. Adding a minimum price will not solve the issue of binge drinking. The problem is the culture we live in, it's "cool" to drink lots as quickly as possible and get hammered at the weekend. People need to change. I don't know what the solution is, but you'll still be able to buy alcohol in bulk for a relatively cheap price compared to down the pub.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 877.

    #781.coastwalker..That's the best post on here.
    After the budget and now this proposal,the Ferry companies are going to do well with booze cruises back in fashion,also tobacco in Belgium about £6 a pack,£15 in the UK,by the governments own figures more than 50% of the tobacco consumed in the UK is smuggled,I would expect that to increase considerably.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 876.

    Minimum pricing in itself won't stop excessive consumption, but it is a start. Few would disagree that if we don't start reducing irresponsible drinking by a larger a larger group of people the sheer costs in healthcare, policing and impact on peoples lives will become unsustainable. Minimum pricing won't affect sensible people drinking reasonable amounts.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 875.

    I doubt this will stop binge drinking or reduce alcohol abuse. However, it may open up a bit of competition between the big chains the independents.
    It's possible to buy bottled water at our local supermarket at a certain price. Add barley hops yeast & tax and the price reduces. All very strange!
    Personally, I buy most alcohol from the supermarket BUT I rarely drink more than 5 units per week.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 874.

    First of all for those talking about how there is an epidemic of binge drinking here is a bbc article about how drinking is actually going down but is misrepresented by the media: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12397254 If more people are turning up to venues already drunk that isn't a sign of declining times, its because drinks in pub and clubs have got so expensive noone can afford them!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 873.

    I dont know why there is such an outcry against mimimum pricing. Unit allowance is 14U ladies & 21 U gents. Beyond this you're an alcoholic - by definition. It takes no brains to work out that your allowed unit value per week sets your spend on alcohol. Many people are deluded as they think theyre invincible but PLEASE seek help if problems in your life drive you towards regular excess of alcohol.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 872.

    Those complaining about having to pay more for this don't understand that they pay for it already through tax. The NHS and policing is stretchered every single week! We have to act, and I'm willing to pay more to fix this social problem. But we do need the Police to actually do their jobs too, instead of ignoring or facilitating the problems every weekend around the country - actually DO SOMETHING

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 871.

    Those with a drink problem will continue to buy alcohol whatever the price. If the Government is serious about helping those with a drink problem they need to stop paying alcoholics DLA and the extra money as "drink allowance" and put it into addiction units to help them. Anything else is a stealth tax on those of us who enjoy a drink at home.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 870.

    perhapse the gov could redirect some of that revenue back to open a few pubs.. All the pubs except 1 club and 1 bar in a 2 mile radius have closed probably due to
    a/ more money in property so converted to flats/housing,
    b/ almost EVERY shop in area selling cheap drink so why go to pubs to socialise?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 869.

    Alcohol kills many people. Fixing a minimum price is worth a try.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 868.

    Another "save you from yourself" tax.
    We go to the Czech Republic quite often - my partner is Czech. Beer is 65p a 1/2 Litre, in the pub.The local Tescos sells 10 x 1/2 litre premium beer for £3. There is a zero alcohol level Drink/Drive policy.
    Getting drunk in CZ in public is shameful and frowned upon.
    Here, less people can afford to goto pubs anymore and drink more at home before going out.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 867.

    Following from Comment:25 (coffee rider)
    Finning anyone arrested for alcohol related crime is automatically fined £100min, great idea. The money raised from this fine needs to be put back into drink/drug rehabilitation. Long term investment in drink/drug rehabilitation will have a big effect on social welfare; reduced crime, reduced cost to the NHS, reduce pressure on social services. etc.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 866.

    Ironic isn't it that Cameron and Osbourne want to tackle binge drinking for others when both of them belonged to the binge drinkers Bullingdon club!!
    On a serious note I would personally like to see tax raised dramatically on retail sales and lowered in public houses

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 865.

    Concocted by urban MPs in a knee-jerk scheme to control a minority?
    May spoke of buying alcohol before drinking in town centres. Rural folk would like a chance to visit a local but they're closing fast. My village is dry as are several nearby. What can we do but buy alcohol in shops for home?
    With no public transport & budget news of higher fuel prices it will hit rural folk disproportionately!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 864.

    Price has never been the problem or solution.

    Abuse of alcohol or any other drug is the symptom. The problem lies in a disenfranchised society. People drink to escape. Regular excessive drinking shows a lack of self respect and low esteem

    Our values seem to be money and consuming more, our role models are greedy and shallow, no wonder we need a drink.

    pricing won't deter any form of abuse

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 863.

    I have a best friend who is a reformed alcoholic.

    If the price of a can of beer was 50p or £5 he still would of found the money to buy. All that will happen is rather than drinking cheap beer they will turn to strong cheap vodka hence making the issue worse.

    Surely we have a justice system that should deal with the issue? No drinking on streets? parents responsible for kids drinking etc.

 

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