Tax rises on super-strength beer and cider, minimum pricing and a ban on selling alcohol below cost are among the measures put forward by the main parties in the run-up to the UK General Election.
The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were approached by decanter.com and asked about their proposals on tackling binge drinking, levels of excise duty and the way alcohol is sold.
The Conservatives said they will ‘radically overhaul’ the licensing system to help councils and the police to crack down on binge drinking, closing down problem pubs and bars.
Dismissing the idea of minimum pricing for alcohol, the party backs targeted tax rises against super-strength beer and cider, with an exemption for micro-producers.
‘Rather than penalise all drinkers, we need to take targeted action against the problem drinks favoured by young drinkers,’ a Conservative spokesperson told decanter.com.
A Conservative government would also ban retailers from selling alcohol below cost price, citing support from the Royal College of Physicians.
Home Office Minister and Labour candidate Alan Campbell claimed that local agencies now have enough powers to tackle social problems – including Drink Banning Orders and a mandatory code targeting irresponsible drinks promotions.
Labour remains committed to raising alcohol duty rates by 2% above inflation until 2014/15, he reiterated.
Campbell said the party would ‘continue to look at’ measures such as a ban on selling alcohol below cost, and distanced himself from the idea of minimum pricing.
‘Our view remains that the majority of drinkers are responsible and should not be penalised for the irresponsibility of a minority,’ he said.
‘This especially applies to most kinds of usual-strength wines available in supermarkets.’
The Liberal Democrats support a ban on below-cost selling of alcohol, and are in favour of the priniciple of minimum pricing, ‘subject to detailed work to establish how effective it could be in tackling problems of irresponsible drinking’.
On duty levels, the party believes tax should be levied in order to deter irresponsible drinking, adding: ‘But this should not be done at the cost of penalising responsible drinkers and hurting local industries’.
And it would also introduce a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy for retailers selling alcohol to children, along with extra protection for NHS staff threatened by drunk people admitted to A&E.
Written by Richard Woodard