David Cameron has ordered plans to be drawn up for imposing a minimum price for alcohol, overruling the advice of health secretary Andrew Lansley, more than a year after he first promised to take action.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the prime minister wants a 40-50p minimum price per unit of alcohol in shops and supermarkets in England as part of a "big bang" approach to tackle Britain's boozy culture, with a Whitehall source saying Cameron believed "something pretty radical" had to be done to tackle the issue, and that the "voluntary approach has not worked".
The news comes some 16 months after Cameron said he was supportive of local councils imposing minimum prices on the sale of alcohol, although with the move looking to cost drinkers an additional £700m a year - the extra tax revenue will go to the NHS - not everyone is happy.
Lansley, for one, was reported to favour that voluntary approach, and has previously warned that a legal minimum could breach European competition rules - a view shared by the business department.
An alternate system that taxes drinks based on the number of alcoholic units is also said to be under consideration and is preferred by Home Secretary Theresa May.
A government spokesman said that "no decisions" had yet been made on the forthcoming alcohol strategy.
The alcohol industry reacted angrily to the plan. A spokesman for drinks company Diageo told the Financial Times that there was "no credible evidence from anywhere in the world that it is an effective measure in reducing alcohol related harm".
However supermarket giant Tesco has previously said it would welcome moves to impose a minimum price. In 2010 Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco's director for corporate affairs, said it could "deal with the problem at the lower end".
The SNP administration in Scotland is currently attempting to push through legislation for a minimum price.
The suggestion that a minimum price could be imposed has also drawn the ire of some Tory backbenchers. Philip Davies told the Daily Mirror the proposal was “the most ludicrous thing the government has ever suggested”.
But the move was welcomed by some local health professionals including Debra Malone, public health consultant for NHS Bolton, who said she was "highly supportive" of the plan.
“It would help protect the most vulnerable, particularly young people who at the moment can buy alcohol with their pocket money," she told This Is Lancashire.Suggest a correction