Wednesday, 28 December 2011

English alcohol prices set to soar?

Make the most of any celebratory drinking on New Year's Eve. It might never be so cheap. That's because David Cameron wants to ban any sale of alcohol that is cheaper than the 40-50p threshold, a move likely to cost English drinkers an extra £700m a year. If introduced it's claimed more revenues will flow towards the NHS - and help prevent at least 1,000 deaths per year.


The proposal is likely to be dogged by concerns that such a change might be illegal under European rules, as well as claims that the Coalition government is morphing into Nanny State. But it's understood David Cameron is determined to push on with radical structural reform on the sale of alcohol. What could it mean, apart from a more expensive glass or two?

It's unclear whether change would come in the guise of Scottish proposals - a simple ban of any alcohol that costs less than 45p a unit, or a more complex arrangement based on the number of overall alcohol units in a drink. Or, proposals might simply target supermarkets and local grocer stores so the move would not damage the pub industry.

Large price hikes

Some English councils - Greater Manchester, for one - are already mulling bylaws to put in place minimum alcohol prices. Price rises would hit certain types of drink very hard.The Telegraph estimates a bottle of "own-brand gin with around 37.5% alcohol content would go up from £6.95 to £11.85. A two-litre bottle of own-brand cider would more than triple in price from £1.20 to £3.75." Huge price leaps.

It also thinks the cost of a £12 bottle of whisky would climb to £12.60. Bottles of cheap plonk would go up from around £3.75 to £4.20 and a four-pack of beer with more than 5% alcohol content would cost a minimum £3.95, or thereabouts.

In the background to this story is huge worry about alcohol abuse, and how much it costs the nation. Alcohol is currently the biggest cause of death amongst the young. Dr Sarah Wollaston, an MP who sits on the Common's health committee - Wollaston is an ex-GP - claims alcohol misuse cost the UK £20 billion, or £800 for every family.

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