David Cameron has also previously been one of the main advocates of a minimum
alcohol price, claiming that making drinks more expensive would curb problem
drinking.

There has been a backlash from doctors and some Conservative MPs this morning
amid speculation that the minimum alcohol price plan is to be abandoned.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes and a GP, said she was
“devastated” and warned that “whenever alcohol is too cheap people die”

“I feel devastated,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I mean we know
whenever alcohol is too cheap people die and when you’re selling alcohol for
22p a unit, when people starting to run into problems with their drinking
that’s the alcohol they target.

“And if the Chancellor wants a message from me we are already paying a huge
amount to clear up the cost of this. It is costing us around £21billion a
year just to deal with the crime, violence and the medicinal costs of it.”

Tracey Crouch, the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, suggested that lobbying by
the alcohol industry may have prompted Mr Cameron to abandon his plans.

“I think that it’s quite clear that the industry has done its best to try and
scupper these plans,” she told the BBC. “I think it’s very disappointing if
that is the case because there’s a wider issue here and…the truth is there
are increasing levels of harm. We’re seeing alcohol being the main
contributory factor to that and we have to do something about this.

“This isn’t just about dependent drinkers, this is also about youngsters who
go out on a Friday or Saturday night, they pre-load with high-strength
spirits in order to have the cheapest possible night out and then cause
mayhem and havoc in our cities and town centres, so minimum pricing is a
much wider issue than just trying to tackle dependent drinkers.”

The British Medical Association urged the Prime Minister to “be courageous”
and take a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save lives, save the country
money”.

Speculation has been growing for some weeks that the proposals will be shelved
amid criticism that it will unfairly punish responsible drinkers on low
incomes.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities at the BMA, said
the impact on them would be a “tiny amount” of 30p-40p per week that would
be outweighed by the benefits.

Asked what the BMA’s message would be to the Prime Minister, she told BBC
Radio 4’s Today programme: “Be courageous: this is a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to save lives, to save the country money. Both of those are very
good deals for him.

“And it will get him the thanks of an awful lot of people. Not just doctors
and nurses but also the families of problem drinkers who desperately want
the Government to do something to help them help the people they love to
kick the habit and to save their lives.”

She added: “We really do need to know. All the plans are based on the fact
that we are going to have the minimum pricing so that we can do something.

“It is damaging because none of us know where we are going next, what it is we
are going to have the opportunity to do to make a difference.

“Having nailed his colours very firmly to the mast and said this is something
the Prime Minister wants to do because he recognises the tragedy that
alcohol is causing in our society, it would be bizarre for him to let it
wither.”

However, David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, described minimum
pricing as a “blunderbuss of a policy” and said that it would never work.

“The problem with this policy…there’s no doubt there is an issue to be dealt
with in terms of a minority of the public who abuse alcohol, but this is a
blunderbuss of a policy.

“It won’t just hit those, it’ll hit poor people. It’ll hit people in the
north. It’ll hit the pensioner having their one bottle of wine a week; it’ll
hit the hard-up couple doing the same. It’s going to cost…it’s going to
transfer £1billion from the public to the people who sell alcohol, and it’s
not going to work.

“If you look at pricing across Europe, in Germany they sell beer at a pound a
pint cheaper than they sell here. They sell in Spain the same, in France the
same, and they do not have this problem. There’s a drinking divide in
Britain, a cultural divide, and you will not solve it by this rather
heavy-handed sort of mass effect that won’t actually stop the problem.

“If I wanted medical advice I’d go to a medic. This is a social policy issue:
it’s much more complex than saying put the price up and we’ll stop it. The
simple truth is, alcoholics are not sensitive about pennies. The biggest
growing group of alcoholics are actually middle-class alcoholics, and this
is not going to change the price of Château Lafite at Chequers either – this
is going to hit poor people.”

Mr Davis said that Cabinet ministers had been right to put pressure on the
Prime Minister over the issue.

“What is interesting is it’s a current Home Secretary and a past health
minister, and they presumably get advice from their departments,” he said.

“It’s also Michael Gove, Education minister, minister for children, a man
who’s got more to care about than anybody else, and they all think that this
is a bad idea. They’re doing it on the basis of the evidence. This sounds
like a good idea until you look at the detail.

“The medics are not evidence. The medics are making an argument; they’re not
actually presenting evidence to show that this works. I’ve not seen anywhere
that this works.”

Cabinet split after David Cameron abandons plans for minimum alcohol pricing – Telegraph.co.uk
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