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Woodhouse, John and Ward, Philip (2013) A minimum price for alcohol? London: House of Commons.

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In public debate the term “minimum pricing” has been used generically to refer to two different policies. The first is to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol. The second is to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price.

The UK Government’s Alcohol Strategy (March 2012) included a commitment to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol. There would be consultation on the actual price but, once introduced, it would be illegal for alcohol to be sold for less than the set price.

In November 2012, the UK Home Office published A consultation on delivering the Government’s policies to cut alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour. This recommended a minimum unit price of 45p, to be introduced through primary legislation. The paper claimed that a unit price of 45p would lead to an estimated reduction in consumption across all product types of 3.3%, a reduction in crime of 5,240 per year, a reduction in 24,600 alcohol-related hospital admissions and 714 fewer deaths per year after ten years.

On 17 July 2013, following analysis of the consultation’s responses, the Government announced that it would not be proceeding with minimum unit pricing. The policy would “remain under consideration”, but at present there was not enough “concrete evidence” that it would be effective in reducing the harms associated with problem drinking “without penalising people who drink responsibly”. The Government would instead ban the sale of alcohol below the level of alcohol duty plus VAT. This would mean that it would no longer be legal to sell a can of ordinary-strength lager for less than 40p.

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