The UK government has proposed a minimum alcohol unit price of 45p as part of a wider consultation on alcohol strategy.
Running for 10 weeks until February 6, 2013, the consultation is seeking views on five areas. These include minimum unit pricing, a ban on multi-buy promotions, reassessing the licensing regulations, reviewing mandatory licensing conditions and allowing local authorities to take into account alcohol-related health harms when managing problems in their area.
Home secretary Theresa May, who launched the consultation, said the intetnion was to cut alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour. She said it was “not about stopping the sensible, responsible drinking but targeted explicitly at reducing harmful drinking”. The government estimates that a 45p minimum unit price would lead to a reduction of 5,240 crimes every year and save 714 lives annually.
If approved, a litre of vodka which contains 40 units would have a minimum price of £18.00 while a 750ml bottle of wine with an ABV of 13% (9.8 units) would cost a minimum of £4.40.
The proposal was given a cautious welcome by Federation of Wholesale Distributor chief executive James Bielby.
“A minimum unit price for alcohol would create a fair playing field for smaller retailers, but it would also be an incentive for smugglers and diversion fraudsters,” he said. “Mainstream beers and wine brands are already widely available on the illicit, duty-avoiding market at prices that cannot be legitimately achieved. Increasing the differential between the legitimate and fraudulent markets harms law-abiding businesses and results in less revenue to the Treasury.”
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said the proposals would undermine the good work already done.
“New sweeping changes to licensing rules and alcohol promotions will impose burdens on business and risk undermining the positive work underway,” he said. “Specifically we urge Ministers not to impose the unnecessary and burdensome ban on multi-buy alcohol promotions in off licences. This measure is complex and will disproportionately harm smaller stores.”
He also expressed concern over “the lack of detail about how minimum unit pricing will be implemented in practice”.
Earlier this year Scottish MSPs approved plans to introduce a 50p per unit minimum alcohol price, however this is is subject to a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association, the European Commission and five EU countries, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Portugal and Spain.
Submissions to the consultation can be made here.