Government shelves plans for minimum pricing on alcohol

After cigarette packaging climbdown, Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne says there is not enough 'concrete evidence' to implement minimum pricing - but bans prices lower than VAT

The Government has shelved plans for a minimum unit price for alcohol, but will ban the sale of alcoholic drinks priced below the level of duty and VAT.

A consultation document last year discussed a base price of 45p per unit in England and Wales, but Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne said there was not enough “concrete evidence” that the move would reduce the level of problem drinking without hitting people who drink responsibly.

Mr Browne also ruled out a ban on multi-buy promotions due to a “lack of convincing evidence” that it would have a significant effect on the volumes people consume.

The Prime Minister, who had previously been a vocal supporter of the measures insisted that banning drinks priced below the level of duty plus VAT was effectively a minimum price because selling below this price range will become illegal.

Mr Cameron said: “Supermarkets or shops deeply discounting alcohol will be made illegal. That, I think, will be a positive step forward.”

He added that there were arguments with “a lot of merit” in favour of a minimum price but there were also problems. “There's a degree of legal uncertainty - it's been introduced in Scotland but it's still under legal challenge - and there's also question marks about the evidence behind it and how well it can work.

“So, when we have more evidence about how it can work and when we've got more certainty about the legal issues I think it's an idea that has merit, that I'll be happy to consider again.”

He stressed that the decision had been made “by me as Prime Minister”, as had the shelving of plans for cigarettes in plain packaging.

But the Government is now being accused of caving into lobbying from the alcohol industry by disappointed campaign groups.

Prof. Sir Ian Gilmore, Chairman of Alcohol Health Alliance UK said the alternative measures outlined in the announcement are "just a smokescreen to hide how Government has turned its back on public health".

In a statement to MPs Mr Browne said the ban on the “egregious” sale of alcohol for below the level of duty and VAT in England and Wales would mean a can of lager would cost at least 40p.

He said: “There has been much speculation about the Government's plans on minimum unit pricing. This will remain a policy under consideration, but will not be taken forward at this time.

“We do not yet have enough concrete evidence that its introduction would be effective in reducing harms associated with problem drinking ... without penalising people who drink responsibly.”

The Minister added: “We will tackle the most egregious examples of cheap alcohol by banning sales of alcohol below the value of alcohol duty and VAT.

“This will come into effect in England and Wales no later than spring 2014 and will stop the worst instances of deep discounting which result in alcohol being sold cheaply and harmfully.

The decision not to ban deals such as “buy one get one free” was taken because “there remains a lack of convincing evidence that it would have a significant effect in reducing consumption”.

Mr Browne said: “It would not be a reasonable course of action for us to introduce a ban, especially at a time when responsible families are trying hard to balance their household budgets.”

Additional reporting by PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence