LONDON Dec 28 Prime Minister David
Cameron has ordered officials to draw up plans to set a minimum
price for alcohol to discourage excessive drinking, a British
newspaper reported on Wednesday, although the government said no
decision has been taken.
The Daily Telegraph said the officials have been told to
develop a scheme to prevent the sale of alcohol in shops in
England at below 40 to 50 pence (63 to 79 U.S. cents) per unit.
That could lead to sharp price rises, particularly for cider
and some spirits.
The Scottish government has already announced plans to set a
minimum price to tackle alcohol abuse, which kills thousands of
Britons each year.
The British government could decide either to copy the
Scottish proposals in England or to introduce a system of taxes
based on the number of units of alcohol in a drink, the report
Both options would cost drinkers an additional 700 million
pounds ($1.1 billion) a year, with any extra tax revenue
potentially going to the state-run National Health Service, it
A government spokesman said the coalition would continue to
review all available evidence on how to tackle alcohol abuse.
"Our alcohol strategy, which we will set out shortly, will
outline what further steps we are taking to tackle this problem.
No decisions have been made," the spokesman said.
The Daily Telegraph quoted a government source as saying
Cameron was "keen on the minimum price", but said the Business
Department had warned that forcing firms to charge a minimum
price could be illegal under European Union law. It said the
government would publish its alcohol strategy in February.
Kristin Wolfe, head of alcohol policy at global brewing
giant SABMiller, said the company supported the British
government's aim of tackling problem drinking, but said minimum
pricing would be "ineffective, unfair and illegal."
"The evidence shows that minimum pricing will hardly affect
the consumption of hazardous and harmful drinkers, but will hit
the vast majority who drink responsibly and in moderation,"
Wolfe said in a statement.
Extra tax revenue could be attractive for the government,
which has embarked on an austerity plan to curb a big budget
Britain's health cost watchdog urged the government last
year to set a minimum price for alcohol and consider an
advertising ban to reduce alcohol abuse.
The former Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, rejected a
call from Britain's chief medical officer in 2009 to set a
minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol.