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 962.

    I would support this IF I had any expectation that it would work

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    This is another nail in the coffin of the British Pub, as the price rise will be felt there too. What about the responsible drinker who quite likes a decent pint in a decent pub? Rather than penalise everyone, why not change the law to hit the idiots who do cause trouble in public with higher fines, confiscations, community service and or prison if necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    Aa step in the right direction , but why not 50p minimum? Surely the issue is that booze is far too easy to get hold of - the proliferation of outlets in just a few years has been astonishing. I mean Petrol Stations selling Hooch - whats THAT about? You can't clamp down as hard as the Noridcs do, because thier drinking problem is at least as bad as ours - but more sensible licensing is needed

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    Pubs are the heart of many communities and like many communities they are dying at an astounding rate. And no wonder they are dying, as many people have said why would anybody pay over £3 a pint when you can get a crate of 24 beers for £10 in most supermarkets

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    Its a myth to suppose that uping the price will address the problem-Its up to parents and schools to set the examples and give the choices to young culture.As a responsible adult who likes a drink of red wine at home why should I and many like me be penalised.Duties of responsibility being in the home, you are only as good as your parents!

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    We should tax the houses of parliament for all the hot air created, would make billions.

    Bunch of incompetant poeple out of touch with reality in the living in the UK in 2012

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    "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"

    Until they hit the Pub or Off License to de-stress if their anything like the Dr's & Nurses I know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    Education of all parties is the only means to reduce alchohol related issues. You cannot leave this to politicians, when you look at how they behave themselves.
    Show openly the health issues of alchohol consumtion on television and not just the bits that make good copy.
    Remember one of the growing retail products at this moment is the home brew kits

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    They started with the smokers, and I did nothing. Now they are going after the drinkers....

    Actually, I'm disappointed, in the whole thread, no one has blamed Thatcher yet. What's going on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    Will cameron scrap the subsidies on drink & put 40p a unit in Westminster bars or or will be like all his & this government policies hit the poor & needy but the rich won't be touch & ask labour abut their smoking policy & see how much of difference it made to smokers all it did was shut down pubs & put thousands of people out of work

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    I doubt these measures will make that much difference. For the 'hoi polloi' that Cameron seems to be targeting, will it really matter if your tipple is 50p more given that your fags are costing £6 plus? This certainly won't persuade the chatting classes who enjoy half a bottle of red every night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    You get in from work, you have a shower, get changed, taxi to the nearest pub worth going to, meet friends have a few drinks, grab something to eat and taxi home. - your lucky to have change out of £50
    A few cheap cans from the shop and a bag of chips - less than a tenner.
    Many people are taking the cheaper option, all this legislation will do is make them even more miserable with life in the UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    What would work... would be to give the offending drunks an INVOICE to cover full costs, for Police and A&E time, which I would imagine would be quite substantial.
    Hold them in pens until payment is made.

    That would do it ! :-D

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    This won't change the price of a cheap bottle of vodka - the serious alcoholic's tipple of choice

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    the only way to stop this, is to stop alcohol being sold outside pubs. The big problem is not the price but the availability, You would stop underage drinking in the park immediately and all the anti social problems that go with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    The policy, to increase minimum unit costs, is but part of a range of measures aimed at REDUCING the problem. It can't stop core heavy drinkers, there'll always be core excesses in all walks of life. Its the drinker who tending towards being alcoholic & that is a wider threat to health and service cost. 14U/21U is your limit & should define your spend. Exceed that & youre an alcoholic & need help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    This feels like it's going to punish responsible drinkers as well as binge drinkers, an example in this would be Gin. When shopping for it I tend to buy supermarket brand gin as for the price it is excellent value and lasts me 3 or 4 weeks. currently it is around £9 after the increase it will be closer to £15!

    Certainly this is going to mean a renaissance for the "booze cruise".

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    Pointless. Just pointless. I challenge anyone to find a bottle of wine less than £2.40 or a 12 pack of premium lager for less than £10.50 as this is what it would equate to. Not going to make any difference at all, just a waste of money on unnecessary bureaucracy. Unless the majority of binge drinkers are drinking own brand lager and white lightening, then the problem remains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    GREAT Britain, what a laugh. What a sad sorry nanny state we have become when people cannot even be made responsible for their own actions. A skint country taking yet more from the hard working population.
    We will fight them on the beaches someone once said, Modern day politicians couldnt even find the beaches with a map and a compass. Clueless the lot of them

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    So this means that the alcohol industry will make more profit from possibly less sales. Its another handout from the poor (most of those with drink problems) to the rich (shareholders and directors of the aldocol industry).
    At least the the tories are consistent in this.
    Why not increase tax on alcohol to pay for its health costs as has worked so well with tobacco? Too simple??


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