A scathing House of Commons report has called for minimum pricing on alcohol in England, alongside a rise in duty on strong drinks and mandatory health warning labelling.
The report by the Health Committee, published this morning, criticised the Government and the drinks industry for propagating the "myth" that a rise in prices would unfairly affect moderate drinkers.
It claimed that a minimum pricing would, in fact, affect drinkers of cheap alcohol the most. It suggests that a minimum price of 50p per unit would save over 3,000 lives a year, while a minimum price of 40p per unit would prevent 1,100 deaths a year.
"The rising levels of alcohol consumption and their consequences have been an increasing source of concern in recent years. These involve not only the consequences of binge drinking which are a cause of many serious accidents, disorder, violence and crime, but also long term heavy drinking which causes more harm to health…We note that minimum pricing is supported by many prominent health experts, economists and ACPO. We recommend that the Government introduce minimum pricing," the report said.
It added that it expected minimum pricing to benefit traditional pubs, which sell alcohol at more than 40p or 50p per unit.
In tandem with minimum pricing, the report also called for alcohol duty to continue to rise year-on-year, but for duty increases to be "predominantly" on stronger drinks, particularly spirits. It recommended that the duty on beers with a abv below 2.8% be reduced.
The report added: "The alcohol problem in this country reflects a failure of will and competence on the part of government departments and quangos."
"It is time the Government listened more to the Chief Medical Officer and the President of the Royal College of Physicians and less to the drinks and retail industry."
Responding to the report, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) Nick Bish acknowledged the thinking behind minimum pricing but argued that a ban on below-cost selling was a more effective means of tackling the problem.
"Unfettered and deregulated access to bargain booze sold at pocket money prices through supermarkets and corner shops is undoubtedly fuelling consumption. Pubs and bars themselves now face paying 44% more for Carlsberg or Grolsch than their customers can buy it at Sainsbury or Tesco - that cannot be right," he said.
"We have been urging politicians to take action on below cost selling since it was first identified by the Competition Commission in 2008 and we believe a ban on the practice would be a sensible and proportionate response."
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