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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line IT Engineer

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Co...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent