Government minimum price plan unveiled

The Government has launched a 10-week consultation on the alcohol strategy as Prime Minister David Cameron seeks views on setting a minimum alcohol unit price of 45p across the UK and Wales.

A plan to ban multi-buy deals on beer and wine and a minimum price for alcohol will be outlined by the government later today.

The proposed price is higher than the 40p that the Prime Minister David Cameron publicly backed earlier this year when the minimum price plan was first announced as part of the Government’s alcohol strategy.

Multi-deal promotions in supermarkets and off-licences could also be banned under the latest plans, which are expected to be examined in the consultation.

The consultation, which was originally planned to take place during the summer, will assess whether a minimum price for alcohol will reduce binge drinking and help curb antisocial behaviour.

Officials have said that that setting a minimum unit price for alcohol will primarily affect strong lager and ciders as well as other low-cost high-alcohol drinks.

Policing minister Damian Green says: ‘These measures are not about stopping responsible drinking but designed to tackle the minority who cause alcohol-related crime and disorder in our local communities. The evidence is clear – the availability of cheap alcohol contributes to harmful levels of drinking. It can’t be right that it is possible to purchase a can of beer for as little as 20p.”

Alcohol producers and retailers, which dismissed the price proposal as a “misguided” measure earlier this year, said the consultation would not address the causes of irresponsible drinking and set a “dangerous precedent for Government interference in markets in the future.”

Andrew Opie, food director at the British Retail Consortium, says: “Where’s the evidence that imposing a blanket measure that puts up prices for all customers will make a difference? Most major retailers believe minimum pricing and controls on promotions are unfair to most customers.

“The Government should recognise the role of personal responsibility. It should not allow interfering in the market to regulate prices and promotions to become the default approach for public health policy.”

UK lobbying organisation for the wine and spirit industry the Wines and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) echoed the concerns and said there were “fatal flaws” in the modelling used to support minimum unit pricing.

Miles Beale, chief executive for the WSTA, says: “Minimum unit pricing and the proposed restrictions to promotions are wholly untargeted and will unfairly punish millions of consumers and businesses in the UK, while doing nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse or associated crime and disorder.

“However, we do welcome the Government’s decision to consult on its Alcohol Strategy over a 10-week period. This avoids the busiest time of year for our members and recognises the new and contentious nature of the proposals – in particular, promotions restrictions and minimum unit pricing.”

The Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), made up of 32 medical and counselling bodies, hailed the government’s alcohol strategy proposals and called for a 50p minimum unit price to be introduced.

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, says: ‘We’re paying a heavy price for alcohol misuse and setting a minimum unit price will help us on the road to changing this.But we cannot cut the misery caused by excessive drinking, whether it’s crime or hospitalisation, through price alone; we need tighter controls around licensing, giving local authorities and police forces all the tools they need to get a firm grip on the way alcohol is being sold in their area.”

The proposals come just days after a study by thinktank the Adam Smith Institute labelled the model as “deeply flawed and claimed it ignored the “likely effects of minimum pricing on the illicit alcohol trade, disregards the health benefits of moderate drinking and fails to take account of the secondary poverty created by regressive price rises.”

Earlier this year, Scottish ministers fixed their minimum price plan for alcohol at 50p a unit.

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