MPs have been told by David Cameron that he will ‘deal with’ the sale of cheap alcohol in England and Wales. This statement come after the 45p per unit minimum alcohol pricing was planned to be thrown out. Calls from Tory MPs like Sarah Wollaston state that the PM should stay on course and that the plan will reduce early deaths and crime rates.
Mr Cameron said that ‘20p cans of larger’ had to change and that the government was waiting for the results of a consultation. Labour leader Ed Miliband has attacked Mr Cameron over his U-turn asking MPs whether ‘there is anything he could organise in a brewery?’
In response to this Mr Cameron stated he would like to host a party in a brewery to celebrate Ed Balls’ continued presence in Mr Miliband’s team. The reply from Mr Miliband was that the PM obviously couldn’t tell them anything about his policy on minimum unit pricing and that he believes Mr Cameron was simply over-ruled by the home secretary on this.
Minimum alcohol pricing has long been supported by the PM but it is reported that he has clashed with colleagues such as Home Secretary Theresa May, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Commons leader Andrew Lansley on this issue. During PM’s questions Mrs May took a low key position, away from the front benches.
In an interview on BBC Radio 4 Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable appeared to confirm the dropping of the policy. He stated that it was a good concept that he would have liked to see become law. He also stated that his party is part of a coalition and compromises need to be made.
Health campaigners and Conservative MPs who are concerned with the health impacts of drinking have been angered by the reports of minimum pricing being dropped. However, others welcome the news as they say responsible drinkers will be penalised unfairly.
According to BBC political editor Nick Robinson sources involved in the discussion sate that the policy is in death throes even though no official confirmation has come through. He stated that in next week’s Budget the chancellor will set out the government’s approach.
Conservative MP Tracey Crouch stated that the rumoured shift was more politics than policy. She stated that she was disappointed that Theresa May seemed to have changed her mind on the policy. The Home Office has stated that is was considering consultations on the measure and would release a report in due course.
In addition to the minimum unit price the department is considering banning multi-buy offers. Tory MP Sarah Wollaston states that a rise in alcohol duties would not curb the problem as supermarkets discount offers reduce the price to around 22p per unit. However, fellow Tory David Davis viewed the pricing as a ‘blunderbuss policy’ which punishes responsible drinkers who are pensioners and low income earners. He has called for more to be done to stop stores selling alcohol to drinkers who are underage.