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Government shelves 45p minimum alcohol pricing limit

The Government has shelved plans to introduce a 45p minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England and Wales, in a move the BMA has said will ‘cost lives’.

Minister for crime prevention Jeremy Browne said the policy would remain ‘under consideration’, but would not be taken forward as it would unfairly hit responsible drinkers.

There was not enough evidence minimum pricing would reduce the harms associated with alcohol, he said in an oral statement to Parliament today.

He said: ‘There has been much speculation about the Government’s plans on minimum unit pricing. This will remain a policy under consideration but will not be taken forward at this time.

‘We do not yet have enough concrete evidence that its introduction would be effective in reducing harms associated with problem drinking, without penalizing people who drink responsibly.’

Sales below the cost of alcohol duty and VAT will be banned, meaning it will no longer be legal to sell a can of larger for less than 40p. Mr Browne said this will stop ‘the worst instances of deep discounting which result in alcohol being sold cheaply and harmfully.’

However a ban on multi-buy promotions was rejected due to lack of evidence it would solve problems associated with alcohol.

‘It would not be a reasonable course of action for us to introduce a ban – especially at a time when responsible families are trying hard to balance their household budgets’ Mr Browne said.

He called on the alcohol industry to demonstrate what more it can do to reduce the harms associated with problem drinking, including improving education to promote safer drinking, reducing the availability of high strength products and responsible marketing and product placement.

He also said the Government would encourage targeted action by pubs and clubs, as this has proved ‘hugely effective’ in curbing irresponsible drinking.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities for the BMA, said the Government’s position would cost lives and leave alcohol-related problems unsolved.

She said: ‘A ban on sales of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT will affect less than 1% of products sold in shops and off-licences. No one can seriously expect voluntary partnerships with the drinks industry to solve our nation’s drinking problem.

‘Real-life experience of minimum pricing in Canada has shown some tremendous results - with a 10% increase in the price of cheapest drinks leading to a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol related deaths.

‘In ignoring this evidence and not listening to frontline workers, the Government is taking a position that will cost lives and do nothing to reduce alcohol related crime and disorder.’