Thousands of lives in England and Wales could be saved if minimum pricing is introduced, according to a senior Labour MP.
Kevin Barron, chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, made the claim as both the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments debated the issue.
Mr Barron, speaking in the Westminster debate, said: “It is estimated that a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol would save about 3,000 lives a year, and that a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol would save 1,100 lives a year.”
He also suggested that the most effective way to curb heavy drinking was to introduce minimum pricing, but earlier this year Gordon Brown rejected the introduction of minimum pricing.
Mr Barron also pointed out that “industrial white cider” cost just 20 pence per unit in supermarkets, saying: “This is the stuff you see young children and people on park benches drinking and that has to stop.”
The Westminster debate follows a report by the House of Commons’ Health Select Committee in January which quoted an estimate that between 30-40,000 deaths a year are alcohol-related in England and Wales, and listed the cost of alcohol to society at £55.1 billion per year.
In Scotland MSPs on Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee also considered introducing minimum pricing, which is one of the recommendations in the Alcohol Bill before the Scottish Parliament.
However, First Minister Alex Salmond’s plans to introduce minimum pricing may have been dealt a deadly blow by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The Court upheld a previous ruling that setting minimum prices for tobacco was in breach of EU directives, and critics have warned this could make plans to introduce minimum pricing for booze in Scotland illegal.
Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Minimum unit pricing is the wrong policy but it now looks increasingly likely that it is also legally incompetent.”
But a spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We have already made clear that this long-running case concerns tobacco and specific directive on tobacco.
“It does not relate to minimum pricing for alcohol. We consider that the minimum pricing for alcohol is capable of complying with European law.”
Last month it was revealed that supermarkets are continuing to slash the price of alcohol despite accusations that bargain booze deals are helping to fuel Britain’s binge drinking crisis.
Statistics from The Daily Telegraph revealed that in January 25 per cent of all beer sold online at Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Ocado was discounted.