Cheap alcohol to be banned before the World Cup in England and Wales

Ministers said the plans will save money and prevent violence

The Government is to ban cheap alcohol before the start of the FIFA World Cup finals this summer, in an attempt to prevent excessive drinking and violence.

Under the new licensing restrictions, shops will no longer be able to sell alcohol below cost price from 6 April, in time for the month-long tournament starting on 12 June.

The Home Office cited a study showing low-price offers were often associated with major sporting events, to justify the ban.

The legislation would see a set floor price introduced at the duty payable on an alcoholic drink, plus VAT.

Ministers hope young people will be deterred from “pre-drinking”, or consuming low-price drinks before visiting licensed venues, therefore reducing the likelihood of violence and injury.

Research suggests that people who drink large quantities of cheap alcohol at home before going out are more than twice as likely to engage in violence.

It is also predicted that the NHS could save £5.3 million a year, the legal system £3.6 million, while a predicted cut in employee absenteeism would save £500,000.

The news comes as the World Health Organisation has called for immediate action to combat a 'tidal wave of cancer', including people reducing their alcohol consumption.

JUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images View of the FIFA World Cup trophy on 25 January, 2014 during its visit to Quito.  

However, campaigners have criticised the Government for shelving plans to set a minimum unit price for alcohol and to ban multi-buy offers, and say the policy will only affect 1% of products.

Alcohol Concern, a national alcohol issues charity, said it was almost impossible to implement the policy, and it failed to tackle the problem that drinks are marketed at the young.

Under the plans, a 440ml can of 5% strength beer cannot be sold for less than 50p, a 750ml bottle of vodka for under £10.16, and a bottle of 12.5% wine for £2.41.

Ministers maintain that problem rather than responsible drinkers would be affected, with individual consumption expected to fall by only 0.04% overall.

Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: “The coalition Government is determined to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime, which costs England and Wales around £11 billion a year.

"Banning the sale of alcohol below duty plus VAT will stop the worst examples of very cheap and harmful drink.

“We have also given local areas the power to restrict the sales of alcohol in the early hours and ensure those who profit from a late night licence help pay towards the costs of policing.”

Eric Appleby, Chief Executive at Alcohol Concern said of the policy: “The idea that banning below cost sales will help tackle our problem with alcohol is laughable

"It's confusing and close to impossible to implement.

“On top of this, reports show it would have an impact on just 1% of alcohol products sold in shops and supermarkets leaving untouched most of those drinks that are so blatantly targeted at young people.

"The Government is wasting time when international evidence shows that minimum unit pricing is what we need to save lives and cut crime."

Additional reporting by PA

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