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Coalition pioneers minimum unit alcohol pricing

The Prime Minister is leading Government action on tackling drink-fuelled violence and the binge-drinking culture that fuels it. A new Alcohol Strategy sets out a radical approach to turn the tide against irresponsible drinking which costs the UK £21billion a year.

It will help reverse a culture that led to almost one million alcohol-related violent crimes and 1.2 million alcohol-related hospital admissions last year alone. Strategy highlights include:

  • a minimum unit price for alcohol
  • banning the sale of multi-buy discount deals
  • zero tolerance of drunken behaviour in A & E departments
  • a late night levy to get pubs and clubs helping to pay for policing and improved powers to stop serving alcohol to drunks

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 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.

“So we’re going to attack it from every angle. More powers for pubs to stop serving alcohol to people who are already drunk. More powers for hospitals not just to tackle the drunks turning up in A&E – but also the problem clubs that send them there night after night. And a real effort to get to grips with the root cause of the problem. And 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. 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.

“This isn’t about stopping responsible drinking, adding burdens on business or some new kind of stealth tax - it's about fast immediate action where universal change is needed.

“And let’s be clear. 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.

“Of course, 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.

“Binge drinking is a serious problem. And I make no excuses for clamping down on it.”

The Government Alcohol Strategy: Choice, Challenge and Responsibility sets out a plan to reduce binge-drinking in a bid to drive down crime and tackle health issues that for too long have gone hand-in-hand with drinking to excess.

This is NOT about stopping sensible, responsible drinking or penalising pubs. A minimum unit price will not affect the price of a pint in the local. In fact, pubs may benefit from making cheap alternatives in supermarkets more expensive.

A minimum unit price for alcohol will be introduced, meaning that, for the first time, alcohol will not be allowed to be sold below a fixed price per unit. This will put an end to cheap white ciders, spirits and super-strength lagers.

The Government will consult on the level of the minimum unit price, but expects it to be around 40p per unit. This will end the scandal of beer that is cheaper than water, and will tackle ‘pre-loading’ - drinking cheap alcohol at home before heading to the pub or nightclub. We will consult on this over the summer with a view to introducing legislation as soon as possible.

We will also consult on stopping multi-buy promotions like buy one, get one free promotions where consumers are encouraged to buy more than they want, while keeping good value for customers like half-price deals.

The strategy is designed to take fast action where immediate and universal change is needed and is not a stealth tax, a regulatory burden on businesses, or a bid to end responsible drinking.

Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, Association of Chief Police Officers lead on alcohol, said:

“Week in week out in town centres across the country the police have to deal with the consequences of cheap alcohol and irresponsible drinking.

“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.

“I welcome the government’s new approach that will help reduce the availability of cheap alcohol, give communities a greater say over licensing in their area and reduce pressure on the police.”


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Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, of the Royal College of Physicians and the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:

"Health care workers who struggle every day to cope with the impact of our nation’s unhealthy drinking will welcome tough new policies in areas such as price and licensing that are based on evidence and should bring about real benefits."

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