David Cameron 'ignoring compelling evidence' that dearer alcohol would save lives

 

Whitehall Editor

David Cameron will be guilty of ignoring compelling medical evidence if he decides to abandon plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, the Government's own public health advisers warned today.

In a strongly worded warning Public Health England, the body with responsibility for advising ministers on reducing deaths from preventable diseases, said there was clear evidence that increasing the price of drink would save lives.

It added that while the Government's decision would obviously be "political" on medical grounds the arguments in favour were compelling.

Public Health England's intervention will be embarrassing for Mr Cameron. The Prime Minister originally categorically backed plans for a 45p minimum unit price.

He said the plan would result in 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths a year by 2020 stating that the "responsibility of being in government isn't always about doing the popular thing."

But two weeks ago Downing Street effectively admitted that the plan was dead and that minimum alcohol pricing would not go ahead. Sources promised further details of what the Government would propose in its place when it responds to a consultation paper on its alcohol strategy later this year.

In a briefing ahead of taking up its official powers in April senior officials from Public Health England suggested that any u-turn on minimum pricing would fly in the face of the available medical evidence.

Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE's Director of Health said it was vital that the Government used all the tools it had to reduce alcohol related deaths.

"Anything that we have in our prevention tool kit that can help us to reduce the prevalence of harmful behaviours such as binge drinking we need to do," he said.

"The evidence for minimum unit pricing is clear. So our recommendation to the Government would be to base their decision on (that) evidence."

Professor John Newton, the PHE's Chief Knowledge Office added: "Our role is to describe the evidence and the evidence is clear - it's supports a minimum pricing for alcohol.

"We have to ask ourselves is their sufficient evidence to recommend an intervention because we are a pragmatic organisation and give people advice on what to do."

In a sign that despite being a Government agency Public Health England sees its role as sometimes challenging decisions made by Ministers Duncan Selbie, its chief executive said it had an "emphatic remit to tell the truth".

"We will look at the evidence - whatever it says wherever we find it. We will give straight answers. If the evidence is compelling we will say that. If the evidence is there but perhaps not conclusive we will say that as well. We are not going to be constrained in telling the truth about the evidence."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The consultation on Minimum Alcohol Pricing closed on 6 February. We will listen to all views and set out a response in due course."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue