UK proposes 40p per unit minimum price

23 March, 2012

The UK government has pledged to introduce a minimum alcohol price of 40p per unit and the ban of by-one-get-one-free deals in a bid to counter binge drinking.

The move, which follows similar proposals by the Scottish Parliament and is planned for implementation in 2014, was unveiled today in the Government Alcohol Strategy: Choice, Challenge and Responsibility.

Prime minister David Cameron said: "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."

"When beer is cheaper than water, it's just too easy for people to get drunk on cheap alcohol at home before they even set foot in the pub."

Under the proposal most alcoholic drinks would not be affected, instead, cheaper ciders, super-strength beers and economy spirits would rise in cost.

Cameron added: "This isn't about stopping responsible drinking, adding burdens on business or some new stealth tax – it's about fast immediate action where universal change is needed.

"Of course, I know this won't be universally popular. But the responsibility of being in government isn't always about doing the popular thing. It's about doing the right thing."

Critics have warned that the move would contravene EU competition rules, while many drinks industry figures have suggested a minimum floor for alcohol will hit low-income consumers.

Andrew Cowan, country director, Diageo GB said: “The intended introduction of pricing intervention is misguided and appears to run counter to the Responsibility Deal set out by this government.

“Rather than being a targeted intervention, it simply hits consumers hard, particularly those on low incomes. There is no credible evidence from anywhere in the world that it is an effective measure in reducing alcohol related harm.”

Paul Schaafsma, general manager of UK & Europe for Australian Vintage - owner of of McGuigan wine - described the potential controls as "good news for quality brands that sell at sustainable price points“.

He said: "Australian sales above £5 have growing strongly recently and therefore I believe that this will not impact on McGuigan or the Australian category as a whole.

"This move will put pressure on some of the old world suppliers playing at the lower end of the market and it is interesting that wine has been pulled into a debate which is aimed more at high strength beers, spirits and ciders."

Chris Sorek, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, said: “We fully support measures to help reduce alcohol misuse in the UK. While price is one of many factors that influence drinking, at the source of behaviour change is tackling people’s attitudes.”

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