The government today scrapped plans to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol in England and Wales.

Home office minister Jeremy Browne instead announced a ban on selling below-cost alcohol – including duty and VAT - and said minimum pricing would “remain a policy under consideration”. The ban on below-cost selling will apply from Spring 2014.

He said there was “not enough concrete evidence” that minimum pricing would reduce alcohol harm. The minister also scrapped a proposed ban on multi-buy promotions.

In its alcohol strategy consultation, the government had proposed a minimum price of 45p per unit of alcohol. Modelling from the University of Sheffield found that the impact of a 45p minimum price would be around 40 to 50 times larger than that of banning below-cost selling.

Independent retailers are divided over the argument of minimum pricing. Nigel Dowdney, who owns two stores in Norfolk, has said it would benefit his business by levelling the playing field. But Budgens Hassocks retailer David Knight said: “It would penalise the masses for the weaknesses of the few – and I don’t think it would level the playing field.”