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 1002.

    Alcohol is necessary for your average BBC HYS poster as it allows them to have a good opinion of themselves, undisturbed be the facts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    The way forward is to treat all offences of Public Drunkeness with disorderly conduct SERIOUSLY. Forget the £80 fixed penalty which doesn't get paid. Start off with an Arrest and remand in custody to the first available court when sober. A special WET Court and a £500 fine taken directly from source. Either Bank account or Benefit. Also treat seriously other offences that are Caused by Drunks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    May I correctly assume that MPs will no longer get alcoholic drinks funded by taxpayers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    People are probably drinking more these days out of despair with the current levels of unemployment with no hope that its going to get better anytime soon.
    If tomorrow everyone stopped drinking and smoking the government would find they have lost a huge amount in government revenue.
    I stopped smoking 8 months ago as I just couldn't afford it anymore glad I did with the new 8%ish rise

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    Don't worry folks if this crackdown is as vigorous as the earlier ones announced on Immigration, benefit fraud, tax evasion, city bonuses etc then we have nothing to worry about

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    Purely and simply a stealth tax that will have no effect on peoples' behaviour.

    As during the depression. in the 1930's minimum pricing is a form of prohibition and like the 30's in the USA an increase in crimiality will occur.

    Booze Cruises will escalate , illegal sales will increase, stills will crop up and the drinks industry in the UK will experience losses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    @ 984

    Do you honestly believe that its only unemployed people who binge drink? This may shock you but people who have jobs also get drunk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    Life is too short to drink cheap wine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    MP's and all these so called experts make me sick.
    Stop making hard working responsible people pay all the time, and start punishing the guilty for a change.
    And I don’t just mean drinking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    Excellent idea! If people, binge drinkers or not, want to consume something that is detrimental to their health, then please continue to slap high pricing levels onto them. Even if it doesn't stop people from drinking it will bring in more money for the government - maybe they could use that extra cash to lower fuel tax!

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    I am a pensioner, I buy 4 cans of supermarket budget lager every week as a treat at a cost of around 90p for the 4. Under this plan I will have to pay £4.80 for the same 4 cans!!
    The government really are trying to target the pensioners this week...

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    If there is a problem; Legislate. None of these MP's are willing to tackle the social and cultural problems that fuel the binge drinking and are unwilling to tell the police and Courts to deal with drunk offenders effectively.
    Oh well, I suppose we can be thankful our MPs don't go on drink fueled rages. Oh wait, wasn't Eric Joyce MP just convicted for precisely that?

    Inside the House of Commons!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    Call me cynical, but I have a feeling that big plastic bottles of cider and multipacks of unbranded lager will continue to be the cheapest thing on the shelf (albeit at a higher price) while retailers maintain differentials so that the nice bottle of wine which my wife and I like to share over a meal a couple of times per week will go up in price from a fiver or so to a tenner...

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    A typical government fallacy- we must be seen to do something, this is something so this must be done. People who want to get off their heads will only go to something cheaper than alcohol if that becomes artificially expensive. A shame that the disabled who can't get out will pay extra - who get's the extra btw?
    PS You don't need to ask Alcohol Concern their opinion, there's a clue in the name!

  • Comment number 988.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.


    Totally agree with you. Buy shares in a brewer? or would you rather moan than make money?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    I would introduce a "tapas rule" if you had to eat something every time you
    had a drink it would mop up and slow down the alcohol intake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    I'm not surprised by this decision. welcome to the Nanny State, always treating the symptoms never attempting to find a cure to the reasons why people turn to violence in the first place. Typical of every government that's been in power since I could vote, way out of touch in their ivory constituencies. Fortunately I am both a responsible binge drinker and wealthy so it won't affect me much

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    The easiest way to cut out "Binge Drinking" is to pay benefits in vouchers used in conjunction with ID (This would stop resale!!) as a great majority of those "Binging" are on the dole and do it out of boredom. Knowing full well that the next free cash is just around the corner. Those who have to work for their living cannot afford this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    Good. ban it altogether


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