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UK: Government consults on GBP0.45 minimum price

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The UK Government has launched a consultation on plans to set a minimum alcohol price of GBP0.45 per unit. 

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The ten-week Home Office consultation, launched today (28 November), also includes proposals to ban  “multi-buy” promotions in the UK off-trade, such as buy-one-get-one-free. The GBP0.45 level is GBP0.05 higher than the Government's first proposal in March

The Home Office says the measures, part of a wider alcohol strategy, are “designed to tackle the problems associated with cheap drink and those who drink and sell alcohol irresponsibly”. It claims that “irresponsible” drinking costs the UK taxpayer GBP21bn (US$33.58bn) a year. 

Damian Green, policing minister, said: “The evidence is clear - the availability of cheap alcohol contributes to harmful levels of drinking. It can’t be right that it is possible to purchase a can of beer for as little as 20 pence.” 

Asked by just-drinks when a minimum price is likely to become law, a Home Office spokesperson said: "The intention is to bring it through in the coming years."

Plans by the Scottish Government to introduce a minimum price of GBP0.50 are currently on hold after a legal challenge was launched in July. The case is due to resume in January. 

On today's annoucement, Miles Beale, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association's chief executive, questioned the latest plans. 

"It is hard to understand why the Government is pushing ahead with the consultation now, when there is a wall of opposition in Europe, a legal challenge in Scotland, a lack of any real evidence to support minimum unit pricing, opposition from consumers and concerns raised from within Cabinet itself,” he said. 

Beale argued there is a “positive direction of travel”, as the Government's own figures show that average weekly UK alcohol consumption is falling. 

On restricitons on promotions, he said: “There is no compelling evidence linking retailer promotions with alcohol misuse”.

The British Beer & Pub Association, whose members include Diageo and SABMiller, both strongly against minimum pricing, did not directly oppose the measure but said there are “concerns”. 

Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “We strongly believe that alcohol should be priced in a way that is socially responsible, but there are concerns that minimum pricing would penalise a sensible majority of people who drink in moderation.”

She added: “The BBPA has always supported a ban on below-cost selling, and we would have been happy to work with the Government in looking at ways to achieve this.”  

A Home Office impact assessment, released as part of the consultation, suggests a GBP0.45 minimum price will cut annual UK off-trade alcohol sales by 6.6%, while on-trade sales will fall by 3%. It also estimates that alcohol duty revenue to the Treausry will drop by GBP200m.  


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