Kohl-eyed Burnham outlines the war on booze
The crackdown will mark the culmination of a scheme, overseen by Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, to cut alcohol abuse. Tackling the problem will be a major plank of the party’s manifesto.Speaking to The Daily Telegraph last night, Mr Burnham said that he wanted public backing for the radical scheme.
He compared the emerging alcohol policy to that involving tobacco – which led to a sharp increase in cigarette prices and a ban on smoking in public places.
“There is rising public concern and we have never shrunk from taking tough public health decisions and we are not going to start now,” he said. “We need to balance the rights of people who drink responsibly with those who buy ludicrously cheap booze and go out and harm themselves and others.
“The mood has changed and there is rising public concern – we need to respond to that and move on the debate…There is no shortage of research that shows the link with price and people drinking harmful levels of alcohol – there is no debate about that.”
However, the Health Secretary stressed that he didn’t want to “punish the majority of people who drink responsibly”. “In difficult times, when people are feeling the pinch, one of the ways they can relieve the pressure is by having a drink and we wouldn’t want to stop them enjoying that,” he said.
It is understood that ministers are working on a “staged process” to introduce minimum pricing. Initially, the drinks industry will have to increase warnings on alcohol cans and bottles. Supermarkets and other retailers will then be banned from selling alcohol at “below cost” – the wholesale price of drinks – if they refuse to do so voluntarily.
The minimum price will then be introduced as the third and final phase of the scheme. It is being introduced in this way to “bring the public along” as alcohol prices are steadily increased.
A levy could also be imposed on the drinks industry to stop them making windfall profits from the higher prices introduced under the scheme. The money raised would be earmarked for public health campaigns warning of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.
All spelled out, don't say you haven't been warned.