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 1342.

    Looks like i'll be brewing my own stuff, failing that there are many cheap and illegal alternatives easily available on the street. This isn't a solution, it will cause even more problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1341.

    Another bright idea from our Government. Raising the price will never tackle the issue of binge drinking, but of course our Government have never been very bright in their initiatives. They should be looking into the "British Binge Culture", but as always their"Problem Solving" is to squeeze even more money out of us. Seems to solve everything huh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1340.

    A few glasses of wine, or a couple of pints or a G&T with a couple of cigarettes in the local pub followed by scampi and chips or a steak sandwich. Gone.

    Tax-payer subsidised House of Commons bars, Bishop's Bar in House of Lords? Drinking and smoking allowed on these work premises.

    So, become an MP and work in a private club that makes laws for the rest of us that you don't follow?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1339.

    I used to be in the Pub trade. My customers "pre loaded" then came out for the social interactions. What is singularly missed here is that anyone on a fixed budget will now choose to spend proportionally more on the cheaper products from Supermarkets and the Pub trade will get less of the spend. Far from helping Pubs, more will close. As for dealing with binge drinking? One word - simplistic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1338.

    None of us wish the ill effects of alcohol to damage health, nor place an increased burden on the NHS.
    However, this proposed legislation is so arrogantly unwise in that it will not cure our social ills, but merely raise indirect tax levels even further.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1337.


    Very confused thinking there - the result of a lunchtime tipple maybe?

    In what way do these proposals target only the binge drinkers and not those who don't abuse alcohol, when they are actually raising the costs of alcohol for everyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1336.

    And we all know how successful the control of alcohol during the USA prohibition period, 1920 to 1933, was and how the banning of sale of many drugs has been with various governments declaring a "war on drugs"for the last fifty years resulting in the price being never cheaper than today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1335.

    How is this going to stop the binge drinking? What will this extra TAX be used for? What can we expect to see, no drunks on the streets, no drunks clogging A&E ? How long is it going to take?

    I'll tell you, it will stop nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1334.

    It seems this government have forgotten their promise to intervene less in peoples lives!
    Even the last government shelved this as a bad idea.
    They do really want to go down in UK history as the most unpopular government ever!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1333.

    Raising the price is merely to make money from us. We have recently seen the supermarkets having to hide all tobacco products from view so why not have a section in the supermarket that is for adults only like in amusement arcades? Or stop the supermarkets selling alcohol and return to the days of the off licence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1332.

    ...personally I think it's a good idea.
    people talk about drink like it's a cup of tea but it has done more harm in this country than heroin.

    ...and the reason why we can't do it in moderation like everyone else in the civilised world is because we're not the brightest and never will be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1331.

    Who's pocket is this extra money going to? I can't see how this wont effect the cost of drinks which are already above the threshold, or risk those companies that sell just below.Would you buy a can of branded lager @ £1.50 a can, or a can of less popular lager @ £1.40 a can?
    Why not have larger fines for those people that do binge drink and cause trouble and leave us social drinkers alone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1330.

    I can't afford the £3.70 a pint our local pub charges, rather I buy a cheap pack of beers from the supermarket and drink at home. I've never been to A&E or arrested for anti social behaviour and my liver function is absolutely fine.
    My choices? Pay more for beer or stop drinking altogether.
    The government are playing a dangerous game, dispossessing the blameless poor can only go on so long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1329.

    Every taxpayer pays the costs of binge drinking: everything from the costs of policing and healthcare to street-cleaning and vandalism.
    Minimum pricing may not work, but we won't know until we try it - it's certainly worth experimenting, say for a five-year trial period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1328.

    1324. russco69

    The way you are shouting it seems you've had eight already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1327.

    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."

    How much do you drink then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1326.

    Makeing us pay more for everything is the States answer to every problem.

    Bet they wont propose removing the subsidised bars in parliment to stop MPs drinking!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1325.

    I think this is disgusting. As a local goverment basic worker my wage is frozen for the next free years, raising petrols prices to commute to this job, whilsting paying a mortage, paying raising energy prices and now the only bit of relief I get to have a few drinks on a Friday or Saturday is going to be doubled in price! Is it worth having a life?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1324.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1323.

    I don't think this will have a negative effect on binge drinking, but the problem is more cultural than financial.
    Alcohol is a poison, the idea of 'pre-drinking' in order to get you drunk before you even start drinking is abhorrent and self-destructive.
    But it's not going to stop because it's slightly more expensive.
    People need to realise they don't need to be drunk to have a good time.


Page 10 of 77


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 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.