Cautious welcome for plan to set minimum price for cheap alcohol

Strong, cheap alcohol will bear the brunt of the proposed changes
Strong, cheap alcohol will bear the brunt of the proposed changes
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DOUBTS have been raised about whether plans to force up the cost of cheap drinks will do enough to tackle alcohol abuse.

Yesterday, the government revealed it intends to set a minimum alcohol price of 40p a unit in England – which it has been claimed could add £135 to the annual bill of a heavy drinker.

Some politicians and campaigners have praised the move, claiming it will discourage alcohol abuse without penalising responsible drinkers, but others have questioned if it will be effective.

The city council considered its own minimum price last year after figures showed Portsmouth has the third highest number of deaths among men linked to chronic liver disease in the south east – well above the national average.

Lib Dem community safety cabinet member Cllr Lynne Stagg said: ‘It’s a step in the right direction but it won’t solve the problem.

‘We need to differentiate between binge drinkers and alcoholics, because this won’t do much to stop those who are addicted and they are the ones we need to focus on. We need to look again at the number of places selling alcohol and reform our licensing laws.’

Cllr Ken Ellcome, Conservative spokesman for community safety, said he was concerned that the minimum price would be difficult to regulate.

‘It’s a good thing,’ he said. ‘Whether it will have the desired impact remains to be seen. It’s one thing to enact it but another to enforce it. People will need to go around and check that the minimum price is being stuck to.’

And David Pickersgill, managing director of the independent Oak Leaf brewery in Gosport, said he didn’t think it would have much effect. I don’t think 40p a unit will be anywhere near enough to stop people preloading on cheap drinks before they go out,’ he said. And supermarket alcohol is still going to be far cheaper than drinks in pubs, so it won’t affect my business at all.’