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No plans to introduce UK minimum alcohol pricing, PM insists

15 January 2010

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out any attempt to introduce a minimum price on alcohol across the UK, despite comments from one of his cabinet ministers that radical action should be taken to reduce binge drinking.

His statement followed comments by Health Secretary Andy Burnham, in which he said his department had not ruled out the possibilty of minimum pricing and that he could no longer ignore the warnings of health chiefs over Britain's alcohol problem.

Mr Brown has previously said he does not support a minimum-price policy, and his office moved quickly to dismiss any suggestion that Mr Burnham had signalled backing for such a move.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said that "at this stage", a minimum price on drink would not be "sensible". He added that the Government continued to take advice from medical experts "seriously."

In Scotland, the Labour Party announced at the end of last year that it would oppose plans by the Scottish Government to introduce a minimum price policy for alcohol.

Those plans would see a minimum price of 40p per unit set on all drink. Drinks which would greatly increase in cost under such a scheme include cheap strong cider and supermarket-brand vodka.

Mr Burnham's comments came after the NHS Federation and the Royal College of Physicians warned that alcohol addiction was costing the UK £2.7bn a year in health-related costs, double the figure of five years ago. Both bodies, along with all of the UK's chief medical officers, have supported a minimum-price policy.

Opposition parties said Mr Burnham’s comments were evidence of confusion in Labour's ranks over the policy.

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