The Governments plan to introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England and Wales has been scrapped.
The U-turn comes as David Cameron and the coalition government have stated there is little evidence to suggest that implementing such a measure will reduce the effects of problem drinking without punishing people who drink responsibly. A ban on multi-buy promotions has also been rejected but sales will not be allowed to drop below the cost of alcohol duty and VAT.
Minister Jeremy Browne said the policy would remain “under consideration” but there were fears the change would hit responsible drinkers.
Mr Browne said: “We are not in the business of making laws that do not work. We consulted on it and we heard what people said. 34% of those who responded backed a 45p minimum unit price but 56% had disagreed.”
The minister stated that there was not enough evidence to back the change “at a time when responsible families are trying hard to balance their household budgets.”
The minimum pricing scheme has been scrapped for now but the government says it remains committed to tackling problem drinking and irresponsible promotions in pubs in clubs. The Conservatives say more must be done to educate people about the potential dangers of drinking alcohol and encouraging responsible marketing and product placement.
However, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, a GP, said that would have an “absolutely meaningless impact” and doctors would see the decision not to introduce a minimum price as removing the one tool that could help them reduce avoidable liver disease deaths.
Labour shadow minister Diana Johnson accused the government of “performing a U-turn on their flagship policy”. She said the consultation had never been about whether or not to introduce minimum unit pricing – it was about what level it should be set at.
Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said the government had “caved in to lobbying from big business and reneged on its commitment to tackle alcohol sold at pocket-money prices”.
In Scotland, MSPs passed legislation to bring in minimum pricing last year, setting a 50p unit price but the law will not be implemented until legal proceedings, brought by the Scottish Whisky Association, are complete.
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