The U.K. Home Office has issued its response to a public consultation on its alcohol strategy, laying out a number of new measures but stopping short of instituting a scheme that would have priced alcoholic beverages per unit of alcohol. Under the new strategy, the government has vowed, among other things, to (i) take action “on irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs,” (ii) facilitate “targeted action by pubs and clubs themselves to curb irresponsible drinking,” (iii) put an end to deep discounts on alcohol that made it possible for consumers to purchase beverages for less than the cost to retailers, and (iv) free “responsible business and community groups from unnecessary red tape, while maintaining the integrity of the licensing system.” At the same time, however, the Home Office ultimately declined to implement minimum unit pricing (MUP) because it found little evidence that the plan would “reduce problem drinking without penalizing all those who drink responsibly.”
The decision reportedly drew criticism from health and consumer groups that advocated MUP as a way to reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages. “Today’s announcement confirms that the government has caved in to lobbying from big business and reneged on its commitment to tackle alcohol sold at pocket money prices,” Alcohol Health Alliance Chair Ian Gilmore was quoted as saying. “We know that minimum pricing will work and there is a huge level of support from frontline workers, including doctors and the police. Alternative measures outlined in today’s announcement will have little or no impact—they are just a smokescreen to hide how the government has turned its back on public health.” See U.K. Home Office Press Release and The Guardian, July 17, 2013.