Consultation on minimum unit pricing of alcohol and a ban on multi-buy offers

The government's alcohol strategy, published in March 2012, included a commitment to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol, meaning that, for the first time ever in England and Wales, alcohol would not be allowed to be sold below a certain defined price. They also committed to consulting on a ban on multi-buy promotions.

The Home Office launched a consultation in November 2012, which proposed a minimum unit price of 45p and a ban on multi-buy promotions in shops and off-licences, with a view to curbing excessive alcohol consumption.

After initial support from Prime Minister David Cameron, plans for the minimum unit pricing of alcohol were abandoned in July 2013, amid claims of disagreement within the Cabinet.

Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne made a statement to the House of Commons, suggesting that there was insufficient 'concrete evidence' that the suggested 45p minimum unit pricing would reduce the prevalence of drinking. He also ruled out a ban on multi-buy offers on drinks. Instead, the government committed to a ban on the sale of alcohol below cost price. The Licensing Act 2003 (mandatory conditions) order 2014 introduced a below-cost ban on alcohol sales, which came into effect on 28 May 2014.

Organisations such as the Alcohol Health Alliance accused the government of ignoring evidence from abroad, including Canada, where alcohol-related deaths were reduced by 32% following a 10% increase in alcohol prices. Alcohol Concern felt that the government had bowed to lobbying pressure from the drinks industry. Public Health England also disagreed with the government's decision not to introduce minimum pricing.

Source(s)

May T.
Alcohol consultation.
Speech of written ministerial statement laid in the House of Commons.
2012 Nov 28; London.

Boseley S.
Minimum unit price for alcohol proposal shelved.
The Guardian; 2013.

BBC News.
Alcohol floor price announced for England and Wales.
BBC News; 2014.

HM Government.
The Government's Alcohol strategy.
HMSO; 2012.

Morris J.
Minimum pricing and liver disease patients study re-iterates claims MUP is a 'fair policy'.
Alcohol Policy UK; 2014.

Home Office.
Guidance on banning the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty plus VAT - for suppliers of alcohol and enforcement authorities in England and Wales.
Home Office; 2017.