Public Health England is to undertake a review of the evidence for a minimum unit price for alcohol in England, the government has confirmed Speaking in the House of Commons, junior health minister Steve Brine said the government is determined to tackle alcohol-related harm. This, he said, is why it is developing a new alcohol strategy, which will include a new review into whether or not there is a case for adopting minimum unit pricing in England.
Mr Brine’s comments come a week after the introduction of the policy in Scotland.
A 50p minimum unit price is now in place north of the border, which means a 700ml bottle of spirits with an ABV of 37.5 per cent now costs at least £13.13.
Similarly, a 500ml super strength can of beer with an ABV of nine per cent costs £2.25 or more, while a 750ml bottle of wine with a 12.5 per cent ABV is priced from £4.69.
The Scottish government believes a 50p minimum unit price could cut alcohol-related deaths by 392 and hospital admissions by 8,254 in the first five years of the policy.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government had proposed introducing minimum unit prices in England six years ago, but scrapped the plan following pressure from the alcohol industry.
Mr Brine explained that when a previous consultation on the measure was carried in 2013, the evidence “as it stood at the time wasn’t entirely conclusive”.
This, he said, remains the case today, which is why the government intends to keep the policy under review.
Mr Brine went on to state that recent developments in Scotland are “very welcome” and stress that the Westminster government will be “watching that like a hawk”.
He added that the “vast majority” of Britons “enjoy a drink and have a healthy relationship with alcohol”, but this “isn’t the case for everybody”. As a result, they can “harm themselves, society and their children”.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, responded by arguing that minimum unit pricing is an “untargeted” policy, the Financial Times reports.
This, he stated, means it will impact most on responsible drinkers, particularly those on the lowest incomes, rather than affect the behaviour of problem drinkers.
Mr Beale also argued that alcohol consumption has been falling over the long-term in the UK, while minimum unit pricing has “proved complex and costly to introduce”.
He therefore urged ministers to closely assess the impact of the policy on businesses and consumers in Scotland, as it must be “rigorously and objectively monitored and evaluated over time”.
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