Sir Richard Thompson slams ‘spineless’ UK alcohol policy


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Related tags Minimum unit pricing Alcohol Scotch whisky

UK minister Jeremy Browne says alcohol-related harm costs society an estimated £21bn per year (Picture Credit: Stuart Richards/Flickr)
UK minister Jeremy Browne says alcohol-related harm costs society an estimated £21bn per year (Picture Credit: Stuart Richards/Flickr)
The UK government addressed its Alcohol Strategy consultation yesterday by ditching controversial plans to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol, to applause from industry and outrage from health groups…

MUP is a price based on the number of ‘units’ of alcohol in a drink, where in the UK one unit is 10ml or 8g or pure alcohol.

A bill to allow MUP was passed in Scotland in May 2012 proposing an MUP of 50p ($0.76) per unit, but is currently subject to a second judicial review challenge​ from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), spiritsEUROPE and Comité Européen des Enterprises Vins (CEEV).

  • Jeremy Browne, Minister of State for Crime Prevention(House of Commons speech yesterday outlining government response)

“Excessive alcohol consumption costs the taxpayer huge amounts of money. Alcohol-related crime and health harms are estimated to cost society around £21bn every year. The government therefore does have a role in seeking to curb excessive drinking.”

“There has been much speculation about government plans on MUP. This will remain a policy under consideration but will not be taken forward at this time.”

“We will tackle the most egregious examples of cheap alcohol by banning sales of alcohol below the level of alcohol duty plus VAT. This will come into effect in England and Wales no later than spring 2014….We have decided not to ban multi-buy promotions….at a time when responsible families are trying hard to balance their household budgets.”

  • Scotch Whisky Association (Gavin Hewitt, CEO)

“We are pleased that the UK government is not pushing ahead with minimum unit pricing (MUP) of alcohol. It is right to focus on reducing alcohol misuse through legal and more effective measures, including a ban on below cost sales based on tax in England and Wales…and working in partnership with the industry.

“We, and many other parties, have consistently said that MUP breaches EU law, is ineffective as it does not reduce the number of harmful and hazardous drinkers while pushing up prices for the overwhelming majority of responsible, moderate consumers and would damage the Scotch whisky industry and therefore the wider economy.”

  • Royal College of Physicians (Sir Richard Thompson, President)

“We are bitterly disappointed…The problems caused by alcohol misuse are huge. It costs the NHS almost £3.5bn per year; increasing alcohol-related illness and injury accounts for more than one million hospital admissions each year. Almost half of violent crime is alcohol related, and alcohol is linked to 40% of domestic violence cases.”

“Doctors, the police, the emergency services, leading children’s charities and the Health Select Committee have all publicly endorsed MUP, for which there is mounting international evidence.

“Minimum pricing was the backbone of the government’s alcohol strategy. The strategy has been left spineless.”

  • Public Health England (Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health & Wellbeing)

“Alcohol misuse is a major cause of early death and dysfunction for individuals, their families and the community. There is strong evidence that MUP would make cheap and higher strength alcohol less available, with the greatest impact being in younger and heavier drinkers.

“Six countries including Canada have introduced minimum pricing for alcohol and we are beginning to see significant benefits.”

  • Wine & Spirit Trade Association (Miles Beale, CEO)

“We remain opposed to MUP. We agree that there is insufficient evidence to support the introduction of minimum unit pricing. It would unfairly penalize the majority of responsible consumers while doing little to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse.

 “We are pleased that the Government has also considered the evidence on multi-buy promotions and will now not proceed with these restrictions, which would have adversely affected millions of consumers and businesses, while doing nothing to tackle problem drinkers.”

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