Minimum pricing of alcohol urged

Minimum alchol pricing - bottle of lagerMinimum pricing and an exclusion of industry lobbyists from education programmes must be key parts of the Government's forthcoming alcohol strategy, a Tory MP has said.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Totnes MP, told a Westminster Hall debate in the Parliament that alcohol contributes to 22,000 deaths in Britain every year and costs the country £20 billion.
Public Health Minister Anne Milton pledged the Government's strategy would ensure that authorities do everything possible to help tackle the problem of alcohol abuse, but to be effective every part of society would need to take part.

Elected in 2010 following a pioneering open primary in her Totnes seat, Dr Wollaston said action needed to be taken on pricing, marketing, education and labelling. People who already have a problem must be helped, she said.

She also called for a reduction in the drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50mg and boosted powers for police to order breath tests.

Making her argument to MPs, Dr Wollaston said: "It is time to send a clear message we have had enough of drunken, anti-social behaviour and violent behaviour.

"When it comes to education, the most important point is clear labelling. There has been some progress within the industry but if they don't reach their targets, that should be mandated.

"There is a clear conflict of interest in having the drinks industry controlling education. I would like to see further work on responsible locations within supermarket aisles and further progress on labelling. There is no such thing as a cheap cheap drink. We are all paying a very high price."

But Tory MP Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, said people who argue for stricter controls on alcohol sales will "never be satisfied" and would come back for more. He claimed the ultimate agenda could be to have alcohol banned.

He said: "I had hoped the country had escaped from the 'nanny state' health policy with the end of the last government. The process of setting a minimum price is predicated on the assumption that raising the price of alcohol will make those who misuse alcohol behave differently. But this is an incredibly simplistic belief."

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