The Prime Minister’s spokesman has ruled out imposing minimum pricing for alcohol despite fresh warnings over the dangers posed to the nation by binge drinking.
The announcement follows press reports earlier this week which indicated that Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Health, was considering plans to implement minimum pricing to curb binge drinking.
However, yesterday the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have no plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol. It would not at this stage be sensible.”
Sources within the Department of Health have reportedly claimed that comments made by Mr Burham earlier this week have been misinterpreted.
Referring to a joint report by the NHS Confederation and the Royal College of Physicians Mr Burnham had said: “I can’t sit here and read reports like that and say it is all fine.”
He added: “There is no shortage of research that shows the link with price and people drinking harmful levels of alcohol”.
The joint report released at the beginning of this month warned that binge drinking was putting the NHS under “increased demand” and that the cost of treating alcohol related illnesses is “unsustainable”.
The report also revealed that over ten million people in England regularly drink more than the “sensible” limit, while over one million people have some form of alcohol addiction.
Last week a report by the House of Commons’ Health Select Committee quoted an estimate that between 30-40,000 deaths a year are alcohol-related and listed the cost of alcohol to society at £55.1 billion per year.
The report called for the minimum price per unit of alcohol to be raised to 40 pence, four times the current level.
The Select Committee MPs also warned that Gordon Brown’s decision to oppose a minimum price for alcohol was having a devastating effect on the nation’s health.
The Conservative Party leader David Cameron has previously blamed cheap alcohol and 24-hour drinking for fuelling crime and said that “serious changes” are needed to tackle drink-related violence and crime.
Last September Prime Minister Gordon Brown admitted that the controversial 24-hour drinking laws implemented by his party in November 2005 were “not working”.