New minimum alcohol price to be introduced to combat binge drinking

 

A minimum price for alcohol of 40p a unit will be announced by the Government today in an attempt to combat Britain's binge drinking culture.

A new alcohol strategy will also ban multi-buy discounts such as three bottles of wine for £10; impose a levy on pubs and clubs to pay towards policing costs; give bar staff greater powers to refuse to serve drunks and bring in “zero tolerance” of drunken behaviour in hospital accident and emergency departments.

David Cameron has forced through a legal minimum price against opposition from the drinks industry and  several ministers including Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary. The proposed 40p a unit minimum would have the biggest impact on strong cheap ciders and cheap vodkas, gin and whisky. A Sainsbury's basic cider two litre bottle (with a 4.2 per cent alcohol strength) would rise from £1.89 to £3.36 and a  Tesco value vodka 700ml from £8.72 to £10.52.

The Government estimates the proposal would cost the average drinker between £21 and £23 a year; a moderate drinker staying within the recommended limit (21 units a week for men and 14 for women) between £5 and £6 a year and a harmful drinker (more than 50 units a week for men and 35 for women) between £105 and £135 a year.

At the same time, the alcohol industry has agreed to “shed” a billion units of alcohol by ensuring greater choice of lower strength products under its “responsibility deal” with the Government. The industry believes there is a growing market for lower strength wines and lower and non-alcoholic beer.

Irresponsible drinking is believed to cost the UK £21bn a year and is blamed for almost one million alcohol-related violent crimes.

Mr Cameron said: “Binge drinking isn’t some fringe issue, it accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in this country. The crime and violence it causes drains resources in our hospitals, generates mayhem on our streets and spreads fear in our communities.  My message is simple. We can't go on like this. We have to tackle the scourge of violence caused by binge drinking. And we have to do it now.”

The Prime Minister admitted his move would be controversial but insisted that tough action is needed. He added: “That  means coming down hard on cheap alcohol. 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.”

While the Government would consult on the actual minimum unit price, he said  a  40p  floor could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol related deaths a year by the end of  the next decade. More than £80m in health and crime costs would be saved in the first year, rising to £140m after 10 years.

Mr Cameron insisted: “This isn’t about stopping responsible drinking, adding burdens on business or some new kind of stealth tax... This will not hurt pubs. A pint is two units. If the minimum price is 40p a unit, it won’t affect the price of a pint. In fact, pubs may benefit by making the cheap alternatives in supermarkets more expensive.”

Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ spokesman  on alcohol, welcomed the new approach. He said:  “The growing trend for ‘pre-loading’ means that young people are often drunk before they even enter a bar. By the time they hit the streets at closing they are more likely to get involved in crime and disorder or injure themselves or others.“

But Gavin Partington, interim chief executive of WSTA, which represent the wine and spirit industry, warned: “Minimum unit pricing will punish the majority of responsible consumers with higher prices, hitting the poor hardest.  There is no evidence to prove it will tackle alcohol misuse – in fact the international evidence suggests that problem drinkers are least likely to be deterred by price rises.”

Price Control: The impact

A minimum price of 40p per unit would impact most on strong cheap ciders and cheap vodkas, gin and whisky:

* Sainsbury's basic cider two litre bottle (4.2 per cent alc) would rise from £1.89 to £3.36

* Tesco value vodka 700ml would rise from £8.72 to £10.52

Other “middle class” drinks would rise a bit too:

* three bottles of wine for £10 would rise to £11.70

* 12 pack of Fosters would rise from 2 packs for £16 to 2 packs for £16.90

* 50p minimum would jack up prices a lot higher:

* three bottles of wine for £10 would cost £14.63

Martin Hickman

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
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: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower