Minimum alcohol price 'could be higher than 40p per unit'
Drinkers face paying more than 40p per unit of alcohol under a minimum price scheme to tackle the country's binge-drinking problem, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has indicated.
By Murray Wardrop, and Robert Winnett
9:00AM GMT 23 Mar 2012
The Prime Minister announced the measure, to be set in law later this year, saying it was no longer acceptable that “beer is cheaper than water”.
Mr Cameron indicated that the minimum price would be 40p per unit in England and Wales, while supermarkets and other retailers will be barred from offering “multi-buy discount deals”.
However, Mrs May has suggested that a higher price could be possible, arguing that people who “pre-load” with alcohol and then cause “carnage” in town centres will be affected by an increase on the cheapest drinks.
She told the BBC: "The evidence is... that if you need to deal with the problems that are caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol then you have to address the price of it.
“What it is going to affect is the cheap end of the alcohol market.
"We’ve based our assumptions on a unit price of 40p. Obviously we are consulting on it.
"This is aimed at... dealing with this culture which means that some people think that a good night out is actually pre-loading, so drinking at home, getting drunk at home on cheap alcohol, going out, drinking some more, and then causing problems and mayhem in our town centres.
"What we do want to do is to affect the cheapest end of alcohol where those sorts of offers enable people to really do this pre-loading. So many people now just get drunk before they go out, that's what causes the problems in our town centres."
She added that “deep discounting” in supermarkets was also a problem.
“One of the things that we will be looking at, if it we think it is right to ban these [discounts]... obviously it would be possible for the Government to legislate on this”.
She dismissed concerns other ministers have raised that such a ban would be illegal.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that the alcohol crackdown will not be “universally popular”. But he will insist that the move is necessary to stop the “scourge of violence” caused by binge drinking.
The minimum price, demanded by medical groups, will mean that a bottle of wine cannot be sold for less than £3.60; a can of lager will cost at least 80p; and a bottle of spirits between £10.40 and £11.20.
Government figures claim that it will cost the average drinker between £21 and £23 a year. Drinkers consuming “harmful” levels of more than 50 units a week, will pay as much as £135 extra a year.
The Prime Minister 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.
“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 a pub.
“So we are going to introduce a new minimum unit price – so for the first time it will be illegal for shops to sell alcohol for less than this set price per unit.
“We’re consulting on the actual price, but if it is 40p that could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths per year by the end of the decade.
“I know this won’t be universally popular. But the responsibility of being in government isn’t always about doing the popular thing. It’s about doing the right thing.”
Mr Cameron said the measure was not intended to go after traditional pubs, which already sell alcohol for more than the minimum price.
The proposal will be part of the Government’s alcohol strategy, to be published today.
Ministers said last night they had agreed a deal with major supermarkets and alcohol firms to reduce the alcohol content of some brands.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed last year that the Prime Minister was determined to introduce a minimum alcohol price amid concerns over binge-drinking.
The “drinking culture” was blamed for almost a million alcohol-related violent crimes and 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions last year.
Mr Cameron has faced opposition from within the Cabinet over the scheme, primarily from Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary. The Scottish authorities have already proposed minimum pricing and are facing a challenge amid fears the scheme is illegal under European competition laws. Mr Lansley said last night that he had changed his mind about the wisdom of minimum pricing.
He said: “I think it is important to send a signal that we will not have a situation where people are being continuously prompted to drink to excess.”
The strategy was welcomed by police chiefs and doctors.
Andrew Opie, the British Retail Consortium’s food director, said minimum pricing was effectively a “tax on responsible drinkers”.
Video in the above link.
I'm sick of all of this unnecessary government babysitting. I don't smoke, but I think the sliding doors covering tobacco products in stores is stupid and won't do a damn thing anyway. Now us responsible drinkers have got to pay more for our alcohol because some people get too pissed.