Cameron ready to overrule Cabinet over alcohol prices

David Cameron is expected to overrule Cabinet colleagues in an attempt to push through plans setting a minimum price for alcohol.

Officials have been ordered to draw up proposals for a 40-50p unit floor price in English shops and supermarkets, reports suggest.

The move would be expected to cost drinkers an additional £700m a year .

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However, the extra tax revenue could go to the NHS.

Minimum pricing has the biggest impact on the cheapest and strongest drinks and earlier this month a group of leading academics and health experts claimed the move would save thousands of lives.

Scotland’s administration is pushing through legislation for a minimum unit price, though Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon admits it is “almost certain” to meet a legal challenge under Scottish law.

Westminster Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has previously warned that such a move would not meet European competition rules.

That viewed has been echoed by the Business department but the Prime Minister favours a radical “big bang” approach, according to Whitehall sources.

One has said: “The Prime Minister has decided that when it comes to alcohol, something pretty radical now has to be done and he is keen on the minimum price. It is complicated how this can be delivered, particularly under European law, but it is clear that the voluntary approach has not worked.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Government will continue to review all available evidence. Our alcohol strategy, which we will set out shortly, will outline what further steps we are taking to tackle this problem. No decisions have been made.”

The availability of increasingly cheap alcohol from High Street outlets is seen as a problem for the health service, which has had to cope with the results of increased binge drinking and also the licenced trade, which has seen reduced custom through revellers drinking at home before a night out.