Cameron's 'drunk tanks' are dangerous, say police


David Cameron's call for inebriated people to be locked up in "drunk tanks" until they sobered up was condemned by the Police Federation last night as a dangerous gimmick.

The Prime Minister used a visit to a hospital in Newcastle to promise moves to tackle the "scandal" of Britain's drinking culture through a mixture of higher taxes, better education – and tougher police action.

His support for American-style "drunk tanks" – one-person cells housing people overnight – was his most controversial suggestion for getting tough on alcohol-fuelled trouble.

Paul McKeever, the chairman of the federation, which represents grassroots officers, said: "To recommend locking people up in so-called 'drunk tanks' to resolve the issue of binge drinking is dangerous. People who are very drunk can be vulnerable and often require medical attention, so locking them in a confined space is not an effective solution."

The Prime Minister has hinted at his support for imposing a minimum price of about 45p a unit on alcohol, based on a similar move planned in Scotland. The drinks industry warned him that setting a minimum price would be "probably illegal" as it could breach trade laws, a problem that was acknowledged last night by Government sources.

Two ministers – Chloe Smith, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and Anne Milton, the Health minister – have also admitted the measure could be challenged in the courts.

Ministers are still struggling to find a formula for stopping the sale of very cheap alcohol five months after Mr Cameron first signalled his general support for the move. The Government's long-awaited alcohol strategy is now expected next month. One Whitehall source said: "There is general agreement that action needs to be taken and discussions are taking place, but no decisions have been taken."

From April it will be illegal to sell alcohol in England and Wales at below the cost of duty and value added tax – a move will affect very few current cut-price deals. However, any attempt to set a higher minimum price could run counter to European laws guaranteeing the free movement of goods.

When an attempt to introduce a minimum price was first mooted in Scotland – the scheme is currently on hold there awaiting new proposals from the SNP administration – the Law Society warned it could run into trouble in the European Court of Justice.

Last night, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: "Minimum unit pricing is a blunt tool which would both fail to address the problem of alcohol misuse and punish the vast majority of responsible consumers. As Government ministers acknowledge, it is also probably illegal."

Downing Street selected the Royal Victoria Infirmary for his visit as it regularly has police officers on duty to combat drink-fuelled problems.

PM's past: When booze paid the bills

Eyebrows were raised at David Cameron's attack on binge drinking among those who recalled his 2005 party leadership campaign. It emerged then that Mr Cameron was a director of the company which runs the Tiger Tiger chain, where the cocktail Pink Pussy could be bought in jugs for £7.99. Teresa Pearce MP, said his "attempt to take the moral high ground on excessive drinking looks distinctly shaky".

Now you see him, now you don't... where's Lansley?

Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary, where police have to be on patrol two nights a week to help out with the drunks arriving in A&E, was just the place for David Cameron to sound off about the pitfalls of drink. Being in the Labour-voting North-east of England sent a signal that here is a Prime Minister for the whole country, not just the middle-class south.

But hang on, where is Andrew Lansley? This is a hospital. The Health Secretary should surely be at the PM's side, as he used to be in happier days.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas