Minimum pricing: Time running out for UK government

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CONSERVATIVE party back-benchers expressed dismay last night amid suggestions that plans for minimum pricing of alcohol in England and Wales will be dropped.

David Cameron had thrown his weight behind the policy, which medical groups argue would save lives.

A consultation document issued last year floated a base price of 45p per unit. The government has yet to release its conclusions.

The Scottish Government set the price per unit of alcohol at 50p in an attempt to combat binge drinking. However a legal challenge was brought to the Court of Session in Edinburgh by the Scotch Whisky Association and a number of European wine and spirits bodies.

A number of Cabinet ministers including Theresa May, Andrew Lansley and Michael Gove harbour doubts and speculation has been growing that the proposals will be shelved.

Posting on Twitter last night, Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston – a former GP – wrote: “Very concerned about suggestion that minimum pricing to be dropped from alcohol strategy.”

Fellow Conservative Tracey Crouch said: “I really hope rumours of U-turn on minimum unit pricing for alcohol are not true. We must tackle problem of easily accessible cheap alcohol.”

But Miles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “Minimum unit pricing would penalise responsible drinkers and treat everyone who is looking for value in their shopping as a binge-drinker.

“Evidence has also shown it will do little to tackle problem drinking.”