PM 'determined' on alcohol pricing
Published 13/03/2013 | 09:16
David Cameron has insisted he remains determined to crack down on problem drinking as he was warned dropping plans for minimum alcohol pricing would "critically undermine" that aim.
The Prime Minister said the Government was still examining the results of a consultation on the policy amid mounting speculation the move he personally championed will be abandoned.
A base price of 45p per unit in England and Wales has been suggested but a number of Cabinet ministers, including Home Secretary Theresa May, have made clear they harbour doubts.
Doctors' leaders urged Mr Cameron to "be courageous" and take a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save lives, save the country money". But Tory critics said minimum pricing was a "blunderbuss" policy that would penalise responsible low-income drinkers while doing nothing to tackle problem drinking.
Mr Cameron was directly confronted in the Commons by Tory MP Sarah Wollaston - a former GP - who said abandoning minimum pricing would "critically undermine future efforts".
He told her: "There is a problem with deeply discounted alcohol in supermarkets and other stores and I am absolutely determined that we will deal with this. We published proposals, we are looking at the consultation and the results to those proposals, but be in no doubt, we've got to deal with the problem of having 20p or 25p cans of lager available in supermarkets. It's got to change."
The alcohol strategy put out for consultation in November was enthusiastically welcomed by health professionals and campaigners but appears to have been scuppered by opposition to Mr Cameron within his Cabinet.
Commons Leader Andrew Lansley - previously health secretary - and Education Secretary Michael Gove are among those to have expressed doubts. Senior Tory MP David Davis said: "They all think this is a bad idea and they are doing it on the basis of the evidence."
Shadow shadow leader of the house Angela Eagle said the Government was in chaos.
She said: "I understand that there needs to be a debate but the Cabinet have already announced what their policy is, the Prime Minister has put himself at the head of it, we've had written ministerial statements, we know that the price is meant to be 45p and now we hear about these splits. It's another U-turn."