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MPs call to bring back 50p minimum price for alcohol

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 MPs call to bring back 50p minimum price for alcohol

The government are under pressure to introduce a minimum price on alcohol as a method to reduce the number of people abusing the substance after a senior Labour MP called for a change in policy.

Kevin Barron, chair of the House of Commons health select committee, said that ministers must look at the evidence about the soaring rates of addiction and the financial strain this is putting on the NHS.

“Ministers need to be looking at other solutions than what they are already looking at,” he said.

In addiction to this, Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, expressed his concern that more action was required in a joint report issued with the NHS Confederation last week.

Gilmore said: “The nation’s growing addiction to alcohol is putting an immense strain on health services, especially in hospitals, costing the NHS over £2.7bn each year.”

“The role of the NHS should not just be about treating the consequences of alcohol-related harm but also about active prevention, early intervention and working in partnership with services in local communities to raise awareness of alcohol-related harm.”

It is expected that a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol is to be imposed, which can save 3,000 lives a year.

MPs are also likely to be strongly critical of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) which sponsored the Licensing Act 2003 which introduced the 24-hour drinking licence on the assumption that it would lead to a more laid back drinking culture.

The prime minister has so far ruled out minimum pricing on alcohol as it would discriminate against those whose alcohol consumption poses no problem to themselves or others. Mr Brown has also backed away from limiting offers on alcohol for the fear this may harm business.

Ministers from the Department of Health are expected to respond to this proposition within two months and will be under pressure from MPs to draw up new policies before the next general election in May.

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