UK: Government drops minimum unit pricing

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The UK Coalition Government has officially abandoned plans to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol in England and Wales.

In a statement to Parliament this afternoon (17 July), the Minister of State for the Home Office, Jeremy Browne, confirmed that the MUP proposal has been dropped, but will remain “a policy under consideration”. Browne said that the Government does "not have enough concrete evidence" that MUP would work.

However, the coalition will introduce a ban on alcohol being sold below the rate of duty plus VAT, which will come into force "no later than spring 2014", Browne said. This will mean a can of "ordinary strength" lager will not be allowed to be sold below around GBP0.40 (US$0.60), the minister said.   

Meanwhile, a proposed ban on off-trade multi-buy promotions has also been scrapped, Browne said, due to a "lack of convincing evidence".  

The announcement was welcomed by UK trade bodies the Wine & Spirit Trade Association and The Portman Group.

“We welcome the Government’s recognition of the industry’s positive contribution to encouraging responsible drinking through the Public Health Responsibility Deal,” said Miles Beale, the head of the WSTA. “It is only by working in partnership with industry that alcohol misuse in the UK can be tackled effectively.”

The chief executive of The Portman Group, Henry Ashworth, added: “Through a series of voluntary pledges aimed at improving public health, the industry has proven itself to be committed and willing partners and welcomes the opportunity to continue this successful approach going forward.”

Scotland, which has its own law-making powers, is set to proceed with MUP, despite suggestions that the proposal would contravene European competition legislation. The plan cleared the first legal hurdle in the country in May, despite a challenge launched by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), SpiritsEurope and the Comite Europeen Des Enterprises, Vins.

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