Multi-buy deals on alcohol heading for the axe as Government announces minimum price plans
Government wants to impose minimum price of 45p per unit to stamp out binge-drinking
Plan would mean an extra 70p on some bottles of wine and extra 1.30 on two-litre bottle of ciderHome Secretary Theresa May to launch a ten-week public consultation todayWine and Spirits Trade Association said decision is ‘breathtaking’
11:41 GMT, 28 November 2012
Two-for-one deals on cheap booze in supermarkets and off-licences face the axe under plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol announced today.
The Government plans to impose a minimum price of 45p per unit, slapping an extra 70p on the price of some bottles of wine and an additional 1.30 on a two-litre bottle of cider, in a bid to stamp out binge-drinking.
David Cameron wants to end loss-leader discounting, whereby supermarkets sell alcohol at a loss to entice shoppers into their stores.
Increase: The Government plans to ban multi-buy deals in a bid to stamp out binge-drinking (file picture)
Industry experts say the increase represents an overnight increase in the price of drinks equal to the inflationary increase in costs over the last five years or more.
One industry source said a 45p minimum unit price would see 52 per cent of prices in supermarkets, off-licences and convenience stores rise overnight, including seven out of ten bottles of vodka, six out of ten bottles of vodka and 38 per cent of bottles of wine.
Pubs will get more powers to stop serving
alcohol to people who are already drunk, while town hall chiefs will be
able to further restrict opening and closing hours, control the density
of licensed premises and charge a late-night levy to support policing.
Some Tory MPs have claimed the policy will have little impact on binge-drinking.
But Home Office Minister Damian Green insisted action was needed to curb ultra-cheap booze.
'Too many of us have seen city centres on a Friday and Saturday night often become a vision of hell. A lot of this is fuelled by very cheap, very strong alcohol,' he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
'The point of having a minimum unit price rather than, say, increasing taxation, is that you can target … the shops that do deliberately sell very strong drink very cheaply.
'It is just a fact of economics and indeed of life that if you put the price of a particular product up, demand for it goes down.'
Home Secretary Theresa May will use a written statement to Parliament to launch a ten-week public consultation today.
But the Home Office will also pledge to protect responsible drinkers, so supermarkets will continue to be able to offer meal deals that include alcohol, and bulk wine-sellers such as Majestic.
The consultation will include plans for a review of licensing rules so that they include a ‘health-related objective’ for the first time.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News: 'We’re not seeing this as a revenue-raising measure and we’ll be publishing what we think the impact will be on revenue. We all enjoy a tipple, but what we are trying to do is deal with the excesses.'
The shake-up will seek to address the ludicrous imbalance whereby in some instances beer is cheaper than mineral water.
Consultation: Home Secretary Theresa May will launch a ten-week public consultation today
In some shops, it is possible to buy a can of lager for 20p and a two-litre bottle of cider for 1.69.
Mr Cameron has demanded the changes to stamp out binge-drinking in the face of opposition from senior Cabinet ministers such as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Education Secretary Michael Gove, who believe the change will alienate voters who are struggling to make ends meet and simply want a quiet drink.
Tory MP Philip Davies accused ministers of moving towards a 'nanny state' and claimed a minimum price on a unit of alcohol 'won’t make a blind bit of difference'.
'The vast majority of people who buy alcohol in supermarkets drink responsibly – it’s a very small minority who go out and get drunk and cause problems and indulge in drunken crime so why would we want to penalise everybody in order to try and tackle a few people going out on a Friday night and getting drunk
'Basically what we’re saying here is we want to basically target poorer people; we want poorer people to pay more for their alcohol whilst richer people can continue paying the same amount for their alcohol. And I’m afraid to me that’s completely unacceptable.'
The minimum price of 45p per unit has been set 5p lower than in Scotland, where there is a 50p minimum.
Legal advice from the European Union says the plans are illegal under EU law, as imports would be hit by price hikes, particularly French brandy and Irish cider.
But sources close to Mr Cameron say he is determined to press ahead to call time on a binge-drinking culture which has seen town centres become no-go areas.
Just under half of all violent crimes involve alcohol, and the effects of binge-drinking are estimated to cost taxpayers 21billion a year.
Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, backed the minimum alcohol price.
'We are not killjoys but something has to be done and we have been saying this for three decades.
'Either you restrict sales or you increase prices or you do both, but in the end alcohol is contributory to an enormous amount of not just healthcare costs, but social costs, costs of violence, road traffic accidents and at the very least those little puddles of vomit that one walks past increasingly now,' she told the BBC.
Drinks companies warned the higher price would not have the effect the Prime Minister claims.
Miles Beale, of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, called the decision ‘breathtaking’, adding: ‘The Government is ploughing on regardless of evidence, public opinion, taxpayers’ money and probably the law.’
Labour home affairs spokesman Diana Johnson said: ‘The Government needs to make sure it does not just create a cash windfall for the supermarkets, instead of lowering prices of other goods or supporting better prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse to cut crime further and save lives.’