Alcohol strategy: Hospitals could shut down pubs

Local hospitals where A&Es are full of drinkers could get powers to spark reviews of pub and club licences, under new plans being formulated by the government.

The long-awaited alcohol strategy is also set to introduce minimum pricing, probably at 40p a unit, in a move which will be enthusiastically welcomed by health campaigners.

Levies could be imposed on licensed premises to pay for extra policing in town centres, which the home secretary warned were turning into "scenes of drunken mayhem".

The funds would be used to put police officers in hospitals on Saturday nights.

There may also be a ban on buy-one-get-one-free offers and an industry-wide push to reduce alcohol content on a range of products.

The minimum pricing proposal will have the most noticeable effect on businesses and drinkers however, with supermarkets losing their own-brand advantage and the price of many cheaper drink options rocketing up.

A two-litre own-brand of cider currently sold for as little as £3 would rise to £6, for instance.

But wine and champagne drinkers who stock up on bottles would also be hit by the new restrictions, as would those bulk buying 12-packs of beer, which would go from as little as £16 to at least £22.

Ministers argue the minimum price policy would cut crime by 50,000 a year and result in 9,000 fewer alcohol-related deaths over the next ten years.

It is also likely to penalise drinkers by as much as £700 million a year and could be ruled illegal under EU free trade laws.

"The evidence is – the international evidence but also the historical evidence – that if we want to deal with the problem of alcohol we have to look at the price of it," home secretary Theresa May told the Today programme this morning.

"It is not going to affect alcohol that is being drunk by the most responsible drinkers."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "We support a minimum unit price where it prevents too low supermarket prices whilst protecting responsible pubs. The debate about levels needs to be based on evidence of what will work.

"But the Government needs to make sure it does not just create a cash windfall for the supermarkets, instead of lowering prices of other goods or supporting better prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse to cut crime further and save lives."

The decision to impose minimum pricing has been a difficult one for the coalition, with many Tory ministers, including health secretary Andrew Lansley, preferring industry self-regulation.