British PM rejects minimum alcohol price idea

Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:46am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has rejected a recommendation from his chief medical officer that the government should bring in minimum prices for alcohol in an attempt to cut excessive drinking.

Liam Donaldson said the government should set a minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol, which would nearly double the price of some discount beer and wine.

Donaldson said the plans would mean a bottle of wine could not be sold for less than 4.50 pounds ($6.32), a bottle of whisky for less than 14 pounds and a six pack of 500 ml cans of lager for less than 6 pounds.

However, Brown said he did not want to punish the majority for the actions of the few.

"It is right for society to bear down on, and deal with, anti-social behavior that is associated with drinking," he told a news conference.

"But ... it is also right that we do not want the responsible, sensible majority of moderate drinkers to have to pay more, or suffer, as a result of the excesses of a small minority."

Donaldson's advice, which is not binding on the government, follows consistent evidence that Britain has a worsening problem with teenage drunkenness and with excessive drinking in general.

"Quite simply, England is drinking far too much. Alcohol is not simply a problem for the minority who are dependent on it -- it is a problem for everybody," he said in his annual report.

"There is a clear relationship between price and consumption of alcohol. Price increases generally reduce heavy drinkers' consumption by a greater proportion than they reduce moderate drinkers' consumption."   Continued...