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 1302.

    This is only going to change my allegiance from Export to Special Brew ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1301.

    Raise the age for purchasing of alcohol to 21 in supermarkets as well as having a minimum price per unit. It should be 60p not 40p as well. Price the under 21s out of the alcohol market altogether. It's time to target those reponsible for the binge drinking directly and stop expecting those that don't binge drink to pay for it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1300.

    Great, so now carrying on this miserable existence is going to cost even more. Fantastic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1299.

    @1282. Rob - what a fantastic comment haha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1298.

    Why on earth is this the main story on the BBC ?

    Surely the budget and NHS are more important ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1297.

    He does what he wants, he does what he wants, his name's david cameron, he does what he wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1296.

    Another case of this government bashing the poorest in society, while having no effect on their rich friends.

    I don't think this is anything to do with the health of the nation, but more about keeping the working classes in their place. 40 pence per unit when applied to a £100 bottle of wine won't appear.

    If we're talking about binge drinking, what about the Bullingdon Club?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1295.

    Interesting to see the Tory's copying the Scottish Government, how ironic that the Tory's were against it a year ago

  • rate this

    Comment number 1294.

    The goverment's answer to everything - just charge more for it.

    Heaven forbid that we should see some imagination used in addressing what is a cultural problem. Instead they just chuck the baby out with the bathwater whilst yet again lining their coffers at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1293.

    The Government don't understand that cheap alcohol is a Giffin good (observed in the Irish Potato famine). Expensive alcohol in pubs and bars is a substitute for cheap alcohol at home. As cheap alcohol at home becomes more expensive, more of it will be consumed as people will have relative less disposable income to get drunk. In this economic climate, this will be a hindrance to struggling pubs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1292.

    Another pathetic attempt by the government to appear to be doing something.
    The reason people drink is to escape the pressures of a society where freedom is being removed as each day passes by people who are keeping all the wealth and freedom to themselves. If people had lives worth living, alcohol consumption would fall.
    Raising the price will promote black markets and theft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1291.

    who is theresa may speaking for when she says "we all drink too much and fight"? personally i havent had a drink in about a month, and that was my first in about a month, and i've never been in a fight. and what about tee-totallers? too quick to generalise, your move theresa, i believe thats check and mate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1290.

    Cheap alcohol is bad for society, we know that. We also know that pubs have lost trade and many have shut since the smoking ban. Getting rid of the silly cheap prices would help pub trade and the social aspect of pubs. I support the smoking ban, but let's give the pubs a chance by removing the dangerously low alcohol prices we currently have. (P.S. I am not a Pub Landlord)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1289.

    Dear Mr Government
    Stella is known as wife beater. Any ideas why? Maybe because people become more aggressive with stronger lagers. This proposal won't change the price. Almost everyone I know who used to be Stella drinkers now don't touch the stuff, they drink weaker lagers now and don't get moody! Not rocket science is it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1288.

    Is everyone happy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1287.


    " France and Spain you can easily find bottles of wine for under a euro..."


    True, but French and Spanish town centres are generally full of French and Spanish people, rather than British.

    Completely different mentality.

    They generally also only drink with food, and there's always bread on the table, so no one need start the road to alcoholism by drinking hungry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1286.

    About time. The drinks/retail industry boffins keep preaching about 'the competitive market'. Proof that their concerns is about the pound and not the moral issue. Our culture of drinking is the issue here. With over a million a year clogging up our A&E (and THAT is immoral, people need to be responsible!) and drink crime up, it is about time something is done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1285.

    Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor. Response to his blogs very soon to be only available on twitter. Well done BBC. The death of all HYS by stealth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1284.

    '..we have no sympathy with your cardiac, liver, cancer or the other myriad of other self inflicted health / death issues.
    +£1 on a pack o' fags each & every year, pay for the NHS. Put alcohol up to £0.75 per unit & let's sort out the wheat from the chaff once & for all'

    Wow, that holier than thou pedestal is high - hope you don't need NHS help for vertigo any time soon ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1283.

    I don't mind paying the extra if it means there'll be less pointless violent domestic situations for our police to get caught up in, wasting entire shifts over couples/friends that make up when they sober up. Binge drinking is a cultural problem, but what else can you do in the face of such mindless and unreasonable mentalities other than take actions that restrict the freedom of such mentalities?


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