MPs call for new alcohol levy to help treat harm caused by heavy drinking

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A new "treatment levy" should be imposed on alcohol duties to help deal with the harm caused by heavy drinking, MPs and health groups have said.

In the proposals, Ministers have suggested a 5p levy on bottles of wine and a 3p levy on a pint of beer through increasing alcohol duties by 1%.

The move would raise around £100 million each year, which charities estimate could save the NHS and other public services £300 million per year if invested in alcohol treatment.

The push for a comprehensive policy overhaul comes from the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice Cross Party Parliamentary Group, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm and 30 civil society groups.

The report said the increased availability of cheap alcohol needs to be "urgently tackled" and argues minimum unit pricing should be brought in as part of a post-Brexit review of alcohol costs which takes into account the strength of drinks on sale, and corrects anomalies between different categories.


Britain has 'an alcohol problem'

Talking to Matthew Wright on talkRADIO, Professor John Britton, director at the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies said: “The fact remains we do have an alcohol problem in Britain.

“And that is particularly true with heavy drinkers who tend to buy the cheapest products which are often the least quality products, and the minimum unit prices are one of the policy’s that the alcohol charter calls for.

“So, I think the focus on 5p levy to treat alcohol harm, I can see the rationale for it because here’s a tax that we put straight to the NHS who picks up the tab for the alcohol damage.

"They also call for a wide range of policies which are aimed to change the shift of our pattern of drinking.”

Scotland is one country in the UK that has adopted minimum unit prices, which sets a base price depending on how many alcohol units the drink contains, which Professor Britton called a “very effective policy.”

 “The minimum unit prices are a very effective policy and it is very disappointing that England hasn’t gone down that route,” he said.

“I think it’s also important to remember that the costs, the select committee estimated that alcohol related crime costs £11bn per year, the thing is that these figures often relate to just health or just social, you’ve got to look at the total cost of alcohol on society.

“At the moment we have a situation where a very powerful industry or a group of industries passes all of those cost onto the rest of us, and I think it is reasonable to say that they should be charged to meet the cost they otherwise benefit from.”