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 1322.

    So the Tories are all for free competition in the market place EXCEPT when it doesn't suit them. Hmmm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1321.

    "Is it OK for them to do so, but not the poor?"

    Welcome to class apartheid under the toff party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1320.

    Cheap booze is not the problem. The UK culture of drinking to get drunk is the problem but that is what this change is trying to address.
    If you have a glass of wine or beer in the evening, European style, this change will cost you 20p per day at most. A small price to pay to stop binge drinking.
    If it costs you 50p more each day, you're part of the problem. More than a £1 seek help!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1319.

    1292: "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."

    Rubbish. People who drink to excess do so because they are pathetic losers. We need to stop promoting excuses for selfish drunks and the damage they inflict on themselves, their families, & society in general.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1318.

    It's another tax. Absolutely something has to be done about irresponsible drinking but our corrupt politicians see this severe problem as another lucrative pocket-liner for their friends and associates. It does not matter if they are Labour, Tory or Lib Dem - all 3 parties lack the moral fiber and commonsense to represent their public that pay for their wealthy lifestyles. Total corruption.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1317.

    Gay marriages, granny tax, micro managing people's lives by interfering with the price of alcohol. A lot of people must be thinking – well I voted conservative – but I didn’t vote for any of this. It's as if the Tories are determined to lose the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1316.

    I fully welcome the initiative to pay a minimum charge for units of alcohol. The price has been far too high up until now. With a pint of beer dropping to 80 pence, pubs are going to notice a huge upsurge in business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1315.

    Time to revolt I think...! who's with me?
    It seems a daily occurrence that the "government" put more tax on something, curtail our freedoms and take away our voice. Perhaps we could appeal to Her Majesty to dissolve parliament and take over the running of the country personally. It would seem she is more in touch with the people than our so called democratic government..!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1314.

    europeans being sensible with alcohol is a myth. as a teenager i lived in france, and would regularily buy cheap beer (aged 14),after school, with my french friends, and set about downing it before the bus came. and anyone who has attended a village summer fete will confirm that EVERYONE is bladdered...falling over drunk. we just dont hear about it, because its not relevant to us in the uk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1313.

    Believe it or not but alcohol consumption in the UK has been dropping for the last 5 years. Now politicians seem to have broken the back of smokers rights they've set their eyes on drinking as the next social pariah. Whenever limitations have been put on alcohol, unlicensed 'moonshine' suddenly becomes available.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1312.

    Proof on here that too many of you think it is a right to be immoral.Why can't you just have a drink or two (so no more than a tenner) - there is no need to have so many drinks everytime you go out? Surely the desire to go out is to be with people,do things (dance, sport, talk etc) and enjoy yourselves.This measure will help the cultural problem, but it is not the whole answer.Take responsibility!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1311.

    This can only be a good thing for years smokers have had to put with prices hikes for the sake of their health, so why not drinkers. Drinking costs this country so much not just in money but the social cost to families who are blighted by this drug. Well if drinking is going to cost more then people will drink less I can't see what the problem is. Most people drink to much any way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1310.

    the goverment could not organise a pi-- up in a brewery

    Not now they can't afford it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1309.

    Lets hope that the first place targated, and if found flouting the law prosecuted, are the bars in the Houses of Parliament!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1308.

    Once again punish the majority because of a minority. So the increase will stop alcohol abuse? Wrong, people will still drink and if they can't get the money then they may even turn to crime to get the money. Tax on alcohol has priced people out form going to the pub and now you have to pay the 'hidden tax' to drink at home. Put me in the ground now!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1307.

    The demand for alcohol of those who binge drink tends to be relatively price inelastic and they're unlikely to change their drinking behaviour/habits as a result of a price increase. So all this'll do is punish those that drink sensibly already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1306.

    The minimums proposed won'tt effect drinks that people actually drink for enjoyment. The only noticeable increases will be to special brew type lagers, cooking ciders with higher content of onion than apple, vinegar posing as wine and paint stripper posing as spirits. That said, I agree that any drinking probllem which exists in the UK is cultural and will not be remedied merely by pricing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1305.

    Charging by the unit is disgusting. Why don't they issue everyone a scratch card to use to rub off units when we have a drink. Controlling government..... We. Are not all binge drilnkers. We are all being punished for making us feel having a drink is a sin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1304.

    Too expensive to smoke, too expensive to drink, too expensive to drive, too expensive to light and heat your house.......anyone have the number for Dignitas ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1303.

    the goverment could not organise a pi-- up in a brewery


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