The UK Government expects to see evidence of minimum unit price for alcohol (MUP) in Scotland within ‘two to three years’ of its implementation. Peers debated the policy following a question from Lord Rennard regarding the potential savings to the NHS and police services of introducing MUP.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care Lord O’Shaughnessy made the statement during a House of Lords debate on the day new figures from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) showed that supermarket beer is almost 188% more affordable today than it was 30 years ago, and that its affordability has risen by 22% since 2012.
Responding to Baroness Jolly’s question about when a review of MUP in Scotland might take place, O’Shaughnessy said that the government ‘would expect within two to three years to see evidence of its impact.’ This is the first time a government minister has mentioned a time frame in discussions surrounding review of the policy.
Lord O’Shaughnessy also agreed to meet with Lord Ribeiro and Alcohol Health Alliance Chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore to discuss what the government could do to tackle rising rates of liver disease in England.
He went on to say that the country needs a system which is ‘capable of targeting those who are sensitive to both price but also health interventions, who are drinking in a way that is very deleterious to their health’ and admitted that ‘taxation has a really important role to play in promoting better drinking habits’.
Commenting on the debate, Lord Rennard said:
‘Cheap alcohol is a problem that this government needs to tackle, and needs to tackle soon. To hear that the minister expects evidence to emerge from Scotland within the next two to three years is welcome – but action should be taken sooner.
‘Devolved governments are already convinced by the overwhelming evidence base in favour of Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol and are moving to protect their citizens. Action on this issue is now needed in England.’
Katherine Brown, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, commented:
‘While we remain hopeful that government will act sooner, it is promising to hear that they expect evidence ahead of the end of Scotland’s five-year sunset clause.
‘As the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments are acting on cheap alcohol, English citizens are left behind. 65 people die from alcohol-related causes each day in England, so there is no time for delay – decisive action must be taken.’
Notes to Editors:
The transcript for the House of Lords debate Alcohol: Minimum Unit Pricing can read here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2018-02-28/debates/D11BF73E-62FA-44B3-87C5-1816B969B3DC/AlcoholMinimumUnitPricing#contribution-B1850527-9E85-4B0A-BD10-BF0DB420CA85
Minimum unit pricing (MUP) will come into force in Scotland on 1st May this year. This policy will set a floor price of 50p per unit, below which alcohol cannot be sold. The policy will be subject to a five-year sunset clause, after which its effectiveness will be reviewed.
In England, in the first five years, a 50p MUP is estimated to save 1,148 lives, reduce hospital admissions by 74,471, and cut health care costs by £326 million. Cancer deaths are also modelled to fall – work from Cancer Research UK and the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group suggests that over the next 20 years, a 50p MUP would reduce cancer deaths by 670 and prevent 6,300 hospital admissions for cancer.
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