David Cameron 'ignoring compelling evidence' that dearer alcohol would save lives
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."
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Terrorism explanation 'cannot be ruled out', says CIA
Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
Oscar Pistorius murder trial: Athlete repeatedly sick as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's post-mortem
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Pakistan vs Paul Smith: Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: One of the largest mobile advert...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...