Carlsberg ramps up pressure on PM over alcohol price plan

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Danish brewer Carlsberg (Dusseldorf: 461893.DU - news) has become the latest drinks group to oppose government proposals to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol to tackle Britain’s binge-drinking culture.

Plans for a 45p-per-unit minimum price were set out last month and have the support of the Prime Minister. They would mean beer could not be sold for less than 90p a can while wine would cost at least £4.20 a bottle.

The Sunday Telegraph reveals today that political pressure is growing on the Prime Minister from Cabinet colleagues to abandon the policy.

Carlsberg chief executive Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen said he is strongly against the idea, which follows a proposal for a 50p-per-unit alcohol pricing floor in Scotland that is now being tested in the European courts. “They’re the only two in Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSD - news) where we see this happening,” Mr Buhl Rasmussen said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph.

“We’re a little surprised about the UK proposal because the proposal in Scotland has been taken to court in the EU as to whether it would be in line with the free market principles.

“It could take between six and 18 months before there’s a decision so we didn’t really expect England to come out with a proposal at this time.

“But we were also surprised because we have so much evidence across Europe that price does not change or reduce abuse. What changes and reduces abuse would be education and information.

“A minimum alcohol price may stop you, me and some other people buying so much but you and me and the other people who don’t abuse alcohol are not the issue. The issue is people abusing alcohol and they don’t stop buying because you have a minimum price of 45p or 50p.”

Carlsberg’s opposition follows that of Heineken (Amsterdam: HEI.AS - news) , whose chief financial officer, René Hooft Graaflan, told The Sunday Telegraph last weekend that there were better ways to tackle binge-drinking in Britain than minimum unit pricing.

“I don’t think in general the abuse problem in the UK is much bigger than some other countries,” says Mr Buhl Rasmussen.