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Alcohol: Minimum Unit Pricing

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 8 May 2018

12. What recent discussions he has had with Public Health England on the potential merits of introducing minimum unit pricing for alcohol in England. (905170)

The Government remain committed to tackling all alcohol-related harms, which is why we are developing a new alcohol strategy. As part of that, I am commissioning Public Health England to undertake a review of the evidence for minimum unit pricing in England.

That is welcome news. The Scottish National party Government have taken the lead in this matter by taking the bold step to set a minimum unit price for alcohol as part of wider interventions to help tackle excessive consumption. In particular, they want to end the days of strong white ciders being sold at pocket money prices. The British Medical Association has long called for that, so at what stage will we learn of further progress in the Government’s thinking?

The previous consultation in 2013 found that the evidence, as it stood at the time, was not entirely conclusive. That is still the case, which is why the Government intend to keep the policy under review. Many times in this Chamber we are given the benefit of experience north of the border as to whether a policy has been a success, but it is not always strictly spot on. Given that the policy only came in last week, it is probably premature to say that it is a success, but we will welcome the opportunity to see the evidence emerge from Scotland’s implementation of minimum unit pricing, and we will be watching very closely.

Does the Minister agree that it is significant that major pub companies and brewers such as Greene King, Coors and Tennent’s now support minimum pricing, and that what is good for the nation’s health is good for the nation’s pubs and the promotion of sensible drinking?

We want to get on and tackle all avoidable harms, including alcohol. The vast majority of our constituents enjoy a drink and have a healthy relationship with alcohol, but that is not the case for everybody. Some people can harm themselves, society and, as we have heard, their children. What is happening north of the border in Scotland is very welcome. I think that there will be an early evaluation there at the one-year point, and we will be watching that like a hawk.