Price of drinks may double

Click to follow

Minimum prices that could double the price of some drinks should be imposed on alcohol to curb binge-drinking, the Government's top medical adviser is expected to urge. Professor Sir Liam Donaldson is set to call for a ban on drinks being sold for less than 50p per alcoholic unit, it was reported last night.

The Chief Medical Officer's recommendation, which could double the price of some beverages, is expected to come in his annual report on the state of the nation's health tomorrow.

Such a move would particularly affect the price of beer and wines in supermarkets, who have been regularly criticised for selling alcohol as "loss leaders".

It could see a can of beer costing at least £1 and bottles of wine a minimum £4, depending on strength.

The move would be welcomed by many medical professionals, with alcohol-related illnesses costing the NHS £3 billion a year.

The total expense to the taxpayer of alcohol misuse is thought to £25 billion a year.

But there is no suggestion that the proposal is to be immediately adopted and ministers have been concerned in the past about being accused of punishing responsible drinkers.

David Poley, the chief executive of the Portman Group, set up by drinks manufacturers to promote sensible drinking, told The Sunday Telegraph: "This would hit the pockets of hard-working families who are already struggling to make ends meet, and it would not deter those people who drink to get drunk."

A Department of Health spokeswoman suggested that the recession could have a bearing on any decision at the moment.

"We have not ruled out taking action on very cheap alcohol - it's clearly linked to people drinking more and the subsequent harm to their health," she said.

"Any decisions we make will take into account their wider economic impact during this difficult time.

"It would be wrong to make sweeping changes without consideration of all the options suggested by our research published in December.

"We need to do more work on this to make sure any action we take is appropriate, fair and effective."