Government announces ban on cheap alcohol


Cheap booze ban

A ban on cheap alcohol will be in force before the start of the football World Cup finals as part of Government efforts to curb problem drinking.

Supermarkets and other shops will be barred from selling booze at below cost price from April 6 under new licensing restrictions.

In its justification for the crackdown, the Home Office pointed to a study showing low-price offers were often associated with major sporting events.

Ministers hope the move will cut down on youngsters "pre loading" on low-price drinks, reducing the likelihood of violence and injury.

Potential savings to the NHS are put at £5.3 million a year, law and order £3.6 million and £500,000 in reduced absenteeism from work.

But campaigners remain angry that the Government shelved plans to set a minimum unit price for alcohol and to ban multi-buy offers.

The below-cost ban was dismissed as "laughable" by Alcohol Concern which said it was near impossible to implement and failed to tackle the real problem drinks marketed at young people.

A 2008 watchdog review found six out of seven major supermarkets were selling alcohol below cost price - a total of 220.2 million litres per year.

Under the new restrictions, a floor price is set at the duty payable on an alcoholic drink plus VAT.
It means a 440ml can of 5%-strength beer cannot be sold for less than 50p, a 750ml bottle of vodka for under £10.16 and a bottle of 12.5% wine for £2.41.

Duty free sales on ships, aircraft, trains, airports and ferry terminals are exempt, as is beer with a strength of 1.2% or less.

The Home Office impact assessment concluded that individual's consumption is expected to fall by 0.04% overall - a "comparatively small" decrease.

While problem drinkers would be most affected, there would be a "limited impact on responsible consumers who drink moderate amounts of alcohol".

"There is a risk that consumers could maintain or reduce their current consumption levels to a greater degree than the evidence suggests," it adds.

Research suggests people who drink large quantities of cheap alcohol at home before going out - known as pre-loading - are 2.5 times more likely to engage in violence.

Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: "The coalition Government is determined to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime, which costs England and Wales around £11 billion a year.

"Banning the sale of alcohol below duty plus VAT will stop the worst examples of very cheap and harmful drink.

"It is part of a wide range of action we are taking, including challenging the drinks industry to play a greater role in tackling alcohol abuse.

"We have also given local areas the power to restrict the sales of alcohol in the early hours and ensure those who profit from a late night licence help pay towards the costs of policing."

Eric Appleby, chief executive at Alcohol Concern said: "The idea that banning below cost sales will help tackle our problem with alcohol is laughable

"It's confusing and close to impossible to implement.

"On top of this, reports show it would have an impact on just 1% of alcohol products sold in shops and supermarkets leaving untouched most of those drinks that are so blatantly targeted at young people.

"The Government is wasting time when international evidence shows that minimum unit pricing is what we need to save lives and cut crime."