Theresa May sets out dearer alcohol plan to end binge-drinking

 

Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Plans for a minimum price for alcohol of 45p unit were announced by the Government today in an attempt to curb binge-drinking.

Multi-buy promotions would also be banned under the proposals, announced by the Home Office.

The Government hopes the measures - which would raise the cost of the cheapest ciders and lagers in supermarkets but not affect pubs - will cut the cost of alcohol-related ill-health and public disorder.

Announcing a 10-week consultation on them, the Policing Minister, Damian Green said: “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.”

The Home Office says that irresponsible drinking costs the taxpayer £21 billion a year, with nearly a million alcohol-related violent crimes and 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions last year.

The Alcohol Health Alliance, an umbrella organisation of 32 medical and counselling organisations, welcomed the step. But its chairman, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, a liver specialist, called for a higher minimum unit price of 50p.

He said: "The evidence shows us that heavy drinkers and young drinkers are more affected by higher alcohol prices than moderate drinkers.

"According to the University of Sheffield, a minimum unit price of 50p would reduce total alcohol consumption by 6.7 per cent, saving around 20,000 hospital admissions in the first year."

The drinks industry warned that the 45p threshold would hit modest consumers hard, without addressing the underlying problems.

"While the Government may be consulting on 45p consumers should be aware that the final minimum unit price could be much higher than that,” warned Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association chief executive.

"In the Spring we were told it would be 40p, it's already 45p, we know that health groups are calling for a price of at least 50p and the Scottish Government has already proposed a 50p minimum unit price.

"The impact at 50p would see 65% of prices in supermarkets and off-licences rise with a bottle of vodka increasing in price from £9 to £13.13."

The proposals would push up the price of a two-litre bottle Gaymers Olde English cider in Asda from £2.87 to £4.05. A 12-pack of 440ml cans of Fosters lager would rise from £8 to £9.72.

Dr Mark Wright, a consultant hepatologist at Southampton General Hospital, said: "This is a very positive step which will have a significant impact on the heaviest problem drinkers without really affecting those with a more moderate intake and I'm sure all liver doctors will welcome it.”

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