Mid-day Update

British government plans for minimum price on alcohol

Kate McGough Mar 23, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: The British government has announced today that it wants to set a minimum price on beer, wine, and spirits. It hopes the move will help prevent alcohol-related crimes and deaths in the country.

But what kind of impact could this have on all those British pubs?

In today’s Mid-day Extra, here’s the BBC’s Kate McGough from London

Kate McGough: A quiet pint at a local pub after a hard day’s work is classically British. But Britain’s got a problem with people taking that one pint and turning it into too many pints: Binge drinkers.

Getting drunk on the cheap, especially for young Brits, often means grabbing cheap alcohol at supermarkets before heading out for the evening. And too much of that kind of drinking can lead to bar brawls and trips to the hospital. Binge drinking and bad decisions: nothing too new here.

But the government now is hoping to put an end to this kind of alcohol-related crime by limiting cheap booze sales. As part of a strategy announced today, the government proposed a minimum price of 60 cents per unit of alcohol — that’s the equivalent of a shot of whisky. There are two units in a small wine glass, or three in a pint of beer.

Lawmaker Theresa May is the British Home Secretary. She introduced the change in the British Parliament today.

Theresa May: This will ensure for the first time that alcohol can only be sold at a sensible and responsible price, stopping the deep discounting and bargain basement sales that drive binge drinking.

But the supermarkets and the alcohol producers strongly disagree on a “responsible price.” They say a minimum price would end up punishing poorer drinkers.

Gavin Partington is from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Gavin Partington: It’s grossly unfair, and all this is is a PR stunt designed to distract from the real issue here. The real issue is a problem affecting a minority and we rightly need a set of policies — price alone is not going to address it.”
But the governments not buying it.

Officials say a minimum alcohol price could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 9,000 fewer alcohol related deaths.

In London, I’m the BBC’s Kate McGough for Marketplace.

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