Minimum price warning on Xmas booze


supermarket wineRui Vieira/PA Wire

A family's Christmas booze bill would rise by around £17 under plans to impose a minimum price for alcohol, an industry body said amid fresh reports that the Government could ditch the proposed reform.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said a 50p-per-unit-of-alcohol lower limit would add more than a third to a standard basket of festive wine, beer and spirits.

Ministers have unveiled plans for a 45p minimum which they say will cut consumption by 3.3%, reduce alcohol-related crime by 5,000 a year and see hospital admissions fall by 24,000.

The bid to tackle binge-drinking has been welcomed by health experts but critics say it will disproportionately hit low-income families, penalise responsible drinkers and could be open to legal challenges.

Cabinet ministers are reported to be divided on the merits of the plan, with alternatives such as higher duty on super-strength beers and lagers being considered instead.

A consultation on the strategy is not due to finish until February.

The WSTA - which believes ministers would go for a 50p minimum if the measure goes ahead - based its calculation on a Christmas stock-up of three bottles each of wine and cava, one each of whisky and sherry and a 20-pack of beer.

Based on prices and special offers at two leading supermarkets, it said the total bill could rise from £46.96 to £63.91.

Chief executive Miles Beale said: "It is unrealistic for the Government to pretend this policy won't hit responsible consumers, preparing to celebrate Christmas with their family and friends.

"David Cameron faces huge opposition from consumers and most of his own Cabinet over this ill-thought-out idea. Minimum unit pricing is untargeted and will do nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse. We welcome the sign that the Prime Minister is listening to consumers and those in his own Cabinet who have told him minimum unit pricing is unfair and won't work."

© 2012 Press Association