PM called to take ‘strong action’ on alcohol pricing

Churches and charities have written to the Prime Minister urging the Government to move ahead with plans to ban cheap alcohol sales.

They want the introduction of a minimum price on alcohol units to form part of the Government’s alcohol strategy due to be published this month.

The letter outlines concerns over the toll that Britain’s binge drinking crisis is having on people’s mental and physical wellbeing, public services like the NHS and police, and the more than one million children estimated to be affected by parental problem drinking.

They say: “There are various factors involved in problem drinking, but numerous studies have shown that price is the key determinant. Unless you include strong action on per unit pricing, other measures such as a ban on below-cost sales, a special tax on strong beers or a voluntary code for advertising are likely to be inadequate.

“We recognise that there may be complex legal issues involving competition law. But current levels of ill health and public disorder associated with problem drinking mean that these issues must be addressed.”

The letter has been signed by representatives of the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Evangelical Alliance, the United Reformed Church, Quakers, and charities Street Angels and Action for Children.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Methodist Church last November found that 61% of UK adults felt that excessive drinking was a problem in their neighbourhood.

“We have seen the effects of cheap, strong drink on our streets, in our hospitals and police stations,” the letter continues.

“It is in local communities that the damage caused by alcohol misuse is felt most deeply, particularly disadvantaged communities, which continue to suffer disproportionately from alcohol-related harms.”

The letter was sent ahead of a debate in the House of Lords on Thursday on how to reduce the harm being done by alcohol consumption.

The chief executive of the British Liver Trust warned earlier in the week that the number of people dying in Britain from alcohol related causes was the “equivalent of a passenger filled jumbo jet crashing every 17 days”.

Writing in the Guardian, Andrew Langford called for “strong, coherent action now”.

He said: “As peers turn their attention to alcohol tomorrow, we urge them to appeal to the government that alcohol harm is at crisis point in this country.

“Until we take strong coherent action at a national, local and health service level, we will not stem the tide of damage to our health and wellbeing from alcohol misuse.”