Minimum alcohol price planned for England and Wales


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

Related Stories

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.

Start Quote

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

End Quote

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?


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    ***Nothing will deter bring drinking overnight. It's an addiction, a culture. It will take time to reduce binge drinking. Prices will have absolutely no other effect than making the poorer poorer + the depressed even more depressed because they get poorer, and will have no effect on reducing consumptions. You need to find a way of dealing with the problem from the foundations. Silly politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    Talk about using a hammer to crack a walnut. I drink real ale responsibly and so do others so we are going to be penalised along with the lager louts. Typical of these idiotic politicians. Don't they realise it won't make an iota of difference. People still pay over £7 for cigarettes to smoke themselves to death so what will change? Answer nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    Ha ha ha - the conservative party finally admits that the free market is an illusion and that an economy requires regulation!
    Iit seems corportate responsibilty and self regulation cannot be relied on either!
    As binge drinking is not quite the problem it is hyped up to be, so there must be a political motive to using regulation and market restriction. WHat next for the tories... socialsim???

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    Stupid and cowardice.

    Min price only gives cash to the shops and brewers. We all know it should be a min TAX per unit and illegal to charge less or give away alcohol.

    The TAX on alcohol is grossly too low. Raise more we need it badly enough!

    Min price is cowardice gimmick over doing the right thing and adding tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    What a crock. Instead of addressing the REAL issue (what are kids getting blitzed for?) we make it a little bit more expensive. What if the underlying problem is that people are drinking to forget the ever-increasing cost of living?

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    40 pence a unit?


    A pint of cider in my local costs £3.20 - I make that £1.60 per unit, FOUR TIMES the recommended minimum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    UK Democracy:

    If it can be taxed, tax it.
    If it can't be taxed, make it illegal.

    Libertarian revolution, anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    Ince again we are all punished for the acts of a few. Maybe we should all go back to brewing our own and let the pubs close, which it seems is what the government wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    Wouldn't be a problem if the police did their job and arrested drunks, kept 'em locked up overnight and in front of magistrate next day. Heavy fine and if it happens again, could be locked up. Just get people to apply the law and do their jobs. Stop robbing ordinary people of their money all the time as if it's the only option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    The least the Govt could do, is to raise the winter fuel allowance, this would compensate OAP's for the price rise; as if it doesn't equate to an additional £2000 tax allowance already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    The best way to curb binge drinking is to legalize "it". And by "it" I mean cannabis. Hell, legalize everything, end the hypocrisy. Alcohol is a terrible drug, one of the strongest and most mind and behaviour altering I have ever tried, alternatives would only be a good thing. Raising the price is a horrible Tory idea based on the assumption that it's only the poor who binge drink - disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    This will help the Condems give more profit to their big business chums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    It's a start - but only that, Think the penalties need to be way tougher for DDO offences at the same time, and I mean WAY tougher. All well and good blaming supermarkets and bars, but the inescapable reality is we're all adults responsible for our own choices and behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    Does this mean the price of wine gums will increase?

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    Perhaps we could annoy cameron by announcing a tax on quail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    The only reason I ever buy £2.99 bottles of wine is for cooking and I never drink cheap canned lager or cider.

    So, essentially, this won't change the cost of my drinking at all, but will increase the cost of making home-cooked risotto and lasagne.

    Possibly not the effect they were hoping for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    If a minimum price supports responsibly-run pubs and does not become another hidden subsidy to supermarkets to go with the free labour supply they have benefited from in the last year, I'm all for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    Proper punishment is required from the Police and Courts. Arrest them and put them in cells. When sober, clean their cell themselves and then take them out to the streets to clean up the mess from the night before. There has to be some punishment given out

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    As much as I laud the principle proposed by David Cameron of charging a minimum price per unit of alcohol I want to know when they are going to reduce the high prices charged in public houses for alcohol free drinks. The prices charged are enough to drive you to drink; is it to subsidise the price charged for beer, wines and spirits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 963.

    Looks like anyone who drinks alcohol has to subsidize the 50pence tax that is being reduced ?????

    this is just yet another back door tax

    the proof ''pardon the pun'' is there our euro cousins have much cheaper alcohol and not our problem of this so called binge drinking
    obese people cost the nhs a fortune so £3 tax on a MACdirtyburger will be next


Page 28 of 77


More UK stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.