The Government's decision to abandon the introduction of minimum pricing on alcohol in England and Wales has been applauded by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
Meanwhile, alcohol watchdog the Portman Group has welcomed the government’s willingness to work with the industry to improve health standards.
The U-turn from the government is the second in as many weeks and follows its decision to postpone a system of standardised packaging for cigarettes
Following the announcement, The Portman Group’s chief executive, Henry Ashworth, commented: “We welcome the announcement that the government will continue important partnership working with the drinks industry. Through a series of voluntary pledges aimed at improving public health, the industry has proven itself to be committed and willing partners and welcomes the opportunity to continue this successful approach going forward.”
Despite the policy remaining “under consideration” Minister Jeremy Browne said there were concerns that the change would hit reasonable drinkers. Browne added that there was not enough “concrete evidence” to support the views that minimum pricing would reduce the harmful effects of problem drinking and that plans for a 45p minimum unit price were only backed by 34 per cent of those consulted.
Though multi-buy promotions will still be legal, selling alcohol below the cost of duty and VAT will no longer be allowed, meaning that from spring 2014 a can of lager cannot be sold for any less than about 40p.
The government has come under criticism for changing its plans many from the opposition. Labour shadow minister Diana Johnson, asked of the change of mind: “If it was the right thing to do then, why isn't it the right thing to do now?”
The Wine & Spirit Trade Association agrees with both the Portman Group and the government’s decision, issuing a statement from head of the WSTA Miles Beale, reading: “We welcome the government’s recognition of the industry’s positive contribution to encouraging responsible drinking through the Public Health Responsibility Deal.
"It is only by working in partnership with industry that alcohol misuse in the UK can be tackled effectively.”