Prime Minister David Cameron announced the Alcohol Strategy earlier this year, saying that binge drinking is “one of the scandals of our society” and promising to tackle the problem with a range of measures, including minimum pricing.
Other proposals put forward by the Government today include a ban on multi-buy drinks promotions in the off-trade; a review of mandatory licensing conditions to ensure that they are sufficiently targeting problems such as irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs; introducing health as a licensing objective for cumulative impact policies; and cutting red tape for responsible businesses.
The consultation is set to run for 10 weeks until 6 February 2013 and will be supported by a series of meetings and events with industry representatives some of which will focus on more technical matters to support the policy development process.
It is estimated by the Government that, over ten years, a minimum price of 45p per unit will lead to a reduction in alcohol unit consumption of 3.3%, a reduction in crime of 5,240 per year, a 24,600 reduction in alcohol-related hospital admissions and 714 fewer deaths per year.
The plans by David Cameron to introduce a minimum price and ban supermarket multi-buy booze deals looks like a certain vote loser, according to a study of UK consumers published earlier this week.
A report released by Zolfo Cooper, the advisory and restructuring specialist, revealed a significant majority of people are against a national minimum price per unit of alcohol, with 60% saying they were against such a move.
The launch of today’s consultation follows other commitments made, and measures implemented, by the Government to help tackle the public health bill of alcohol-related hospital admissions and issues of crime and disorder related to alcohol consumption.
These included giving local authorities and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to premises that are causing problems; allowing councils and the police to permanently shut down any shop or bar that is repeatedly selling alcohol to children, and doubling the maximum fine for those caught selling alcohol to minors to £20,000.
These measures were introduced on 25 April 2012, whilst the legislation for the late-night levy and early morning restriction orders (EMROs) came into force last month, with councils able to implement them from next spring onwards.
The levy is annual fee which local authorities can collect from premises authorised to sell alcohol between midnight and 6am, whilst an EMRO will restrict sales of alcohol at such venues for any period of time between midnight and 6am.
Theresa May said in a ministerial foreword: "This is not about stopping the sensible, responsible drinking which supports pubs as part of the community fabric, creates thriving town centres, and provides employment and growth.
"The measures in our consultation are targeted explicitly at reducing harmful drinking, and we welcome your views on how we can jointly end the culture of excessive drinking that causes so much
damage to our society."
Policing minister Damian Green added: “These measures are not about stopping responsible drinking but designed to tackle the minority who cause alcohol-related crime and disorder in our local communities.
“The evidence is clear - the availability of cheap alcohol contributes to harmful levels of drinking. It can’t be right that it is possible to purchase a can of beer for as little as 20p.
“We have already introduced early morning restriction orders to curb alcohol sales, a late night levy to ensure those selling alcohol help pay towards the costs of policing and we have made it easier for local authorities to tackle problematic licensed premises.”
A spokesperson for Number 10 said that the legislation introducing measures including minimum pricing is expected "in the coming years".
Read and respond to the consultation here.