Govt announces alcohol pricing consultation… again

The government has taken further action on problem drinking, by once again announcing the same consultation it had originally planned to hold during the summer.

The delay could be a result of behind-the-scenes disagreement on the minimum pricing strategy. Former health secretary Andrew Lansley was uncomfortable about the plan but his replacement, Jeremy Hunt, is more comfortable with it.

"It's classic smoke and mirrors from the Home Office," shadow crime and security minister Diana Johnson said.

"The debate about levels needs to be based on evidence of what will work. But the government needs to make sure it does not just create a cash windfall for the supermarkets, instead of lowering prices of other goods or supporting better prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse to cut crime further and save lives."

The ten-week consultation will assess whether a minimum 45p per unit price for alcohol would reduce problem drinking and help clean up disorder on British high streets on weekend evenings.

It will cause irritation in the drinks industry but is more moderate than the 50p level planned in Scotland.

The consultation may also look into cracking down on multi-buy promotions.

A health committee report last week said the government was overly concerned with reducing disorder to the detriment of tackling the health problems of binge drinking.