Minimum alcohol pricing could be introduced to England via by-laws

Minimum alcohol pricing could be introduced on a regional basis in England using by-laws drawn up in response to the lack of national progress on the issue.

Local authorities and health trusts across Manchester have worked together to develop a model by-law setting a minimum price of alcohol at 50p per unit.

The move has been supported by Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK and former president of the Royal College of Physicians.

A task group worked with officials in public health and councils in Cheshire and Merseyside. The group decided that, in the absence of national legislation, a by-law approach would be the best means of introducing minimum unit pricing (MUP).

A model by-law has now been drafted and is being used as a campaigning tool.

Sir Ian Gilmore said the move by Manchester authorities was ‘an interesting initiative’ in the absence of any move by Westminster government towards a minimum unit price.

‘We will await the outcome of the Manchester experiment with interest,’ he said.

Sir Ian added: ‘The international evidence shows that price is the most important factor in how much people drink and there are strong grounds for favouring MUP as the most effective way to adjust it.

‘In effect it targets very heavy drinkers and young drinkers, who are more price-sensitive, and will not greatly affect the majority of light to moderate drinkers.  The price of the vast majority of drinks in pubs and clubs is already well over 50p per unit so would not be affected.' 

Sir Ian added: ‘Manchester would not be the first city to take individual action on alcohol - Coventry was the first city to ban drinking on the streets in 1987 using local legislation, a move that was later successfully followed by other towns and cities.’

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Public Health Network said the group was looking for support from other areas regionally and nationally to form a broader coalition of support.  

The network was 'keeping a close eye on developments in Scotland and would wish to learn from implementation of MUP in Scotland', she said.

She added: ‘There is much evidence to show that introducing MUP will reduce the amount of alcohol that people drink, particularly heavy drinkers and young people, as traditionally these are the groups that buy strong, cheap alcohol.

‘By reducing alcohol consumption, it is hoped that around 3,000 lives will be saved per year across the country and the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions and crimes will significantly reduce.'

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