Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston backs minimum price for booze as Tories head for U-turn
Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston has appeared on national television to support a minimum price for alcohol.
It comes as her own party is predicted to announce a u-turn on plans to set a minimum charge.
She backed up her position on Twitter: "It would be a cheap populist mistake to ditch minimum pricing and would undermine any public health credibility on reducing avoidable deaths
"Instead of ditching a measure that would help stop the carnage from ultra cheap alcohol better to consider a 3 year review and sunset clause.
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"Very concerned about suggestion that minimum pricing to be dropped from alcohol strategy. Public health minister could not confirm at meeting."
Society was already paying a massive price from the impact of problem drinking argued Dr Wollaston, who sits on the Commons Health Select Committee.
David Cameron had thrown his weight behind the policy, which medical groups argue would save lives.
A consultation document issued last year floated a base price of 45p per unit, and the Government has yet to release its conclusions.
However, a number of Cabinet ministers including Theresa May, Andrew Lansley and Michael Gove have made clear they harbour doubts.
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.
Responding to report it is to be dumped, Dr Wollaston said: “I feel devastated. We know that whenever alcohol is too cheap people die.
“If the Chancellor wants a message from me it’s we are already paying a huge amount to clear up the cost of this. It’s costing us around £21 billion a year just to deal with the crime, violence and medical costs of it.
“Introducing minimum pricing does not make alcohol unaffordable, It’s an absolute myth.
“More people will carry on dying that’s the bottom line. Don’t ditch it.”
She also spoke of the “absolute train wreck” of alcohol in Britain and the “real carnage” in hospitals caused by excessive drinking.
Dr Wollaston said: “When I qualified as a doctor you didn't expect to see cirrhosis in people until they were in their 50s.
“Now we are seeing people in their late 20s with early stage liver disease - an absolute train wreck that we have with alcohol in this country and it is coming from cheap alcohol because when people start to lose control of their drinking we know that they are spending 40p per unit less on their alcohol and all the rest of us are subsidising this.
“I think that is the important thing - let's see supermarket discounting on the things that people need to buy, the real staples, not on alcohol.”
She suggested that the Government might introduce a three-year sunset clause for minimum alcohol pricing, so if the policy does not work, it can be halted.
But she predicted that, as in Canada, in a “quite short space of time”, minimum alcohol pricing would reduce violent crime, make the street safer and free police time from dealing with alcohol-related trouble.
Dr Wollaston rejected suggestions the issue could be tackled by changes to duty in next week's Budget.