Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Town centres like Wild West - PM

David Cameron said he is sympathetic to local moves to impose a minimum price for alcohol

David Cameron has signalled support for councils in Greater Manchester wanting to ban shops and bars from selling cheap alcohol, saying many town centres at weekends resembled the Wild West.

The Prime Minister said plans to introduce a minimum price per unit of 50p in Greater Manchester would be looked at "very sympathetically".

Ten local authorities want to pass by-laws to address public disorder and health issues caused by binge-drinking.

The approach was backed by doctors and health experts, but the Government - which would have to agree the local regulations - was previously lukewarm.

Mr Cameron told a Manchester newspaper he did not want to introduce a national minimum price, saying: "I think if what you're trying to do is stop supermarkets from selling 20 tins of Stella for a fiver that's what we've got to go after. Where I want to try and help is ending the deep discounting on alcohol."

He cautioned that a by-law could fall foul of competition rules as it would mean alcohol in Greater Manchester being priced higher than neighbouring areas.

The Home Secretary would need to sign off any by-laws imposed by the Greater Manchester authorities.

The House of Commons Health Select Committee and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) are among the bodies that strongly supported minimum pricing, but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley expressed doubts on the grounds that it punishes low-income families.

Mr Cameron later told tourism leaders: "The fact is, while some liberalisation of licensing laws was right and necessary, I think the last government let things go and didn't actually focus on what the right sorts of reform would be.

"And, as a result, in many of our towns and city centres on a Friday and Saturday night, it's like the Wild West. That is the problem and we've got to deal with it."

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