PM rules out minimum alcohol charge

Wine could have a minimum price of £4.50
Wine could have a minimum price of £4.50

By staff

Calls for a minimum price on alcoholic units have been ruled out by prime minister Gordon Brown.

The proposals, set out in the chief medical officer's report on the state of the nation's health today, would effectively double the price of some alcoholic drinks.

But University of Sheffield research suggests the effects of a 50p minimum price per unit would include 3,393 fewer alcohol-related deaths every year, 100,000 fewer hospital admissions and a total benefit to the economy of over £1 billion.

Mr Brown remained reluctant to commit to such a move at a press conference with EC president Jose Barroso this morning, however.

He said: "As we crackdown on binge-drinking and underage drinking, it is right that we take action which is properly targeted and effective.

"We do not want the responsible, sensible majority of drinkers to pay more or suffer as a result of the excesses of a small minority."

Without the prime minister's backing, the plan is dead in the water.

His spokesman said: "It's important the action we take is properly targeted and effective."

And these comments were echoed by Conservative leader David Cameron, who said Sir Liam's proposes were not "targeted" enough.

"The effect would be to hit people who are responsible drinkers," he said at his monthly press conference.

"The responsible way to look at this is to look at the problem drinkers and target your approach at them. The overall approach of this would have some very perverse effects.

"I don't think that's the way we should be going, least of all in a recession."

Labour MP Kevin Barron, chairman of the Commons' health select committee, said the idea deserved consideration, however.

And Downing Street has conceded Mr Brown will examine Sir Liam's report in detail.


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