The prime minister has rejected proposals from the chief medical officer to establish a minimum price for alcohol.
In his annual report today, Sir Liam Donaldson calls for a 50p per unit minimum, to cut alcohol consumption and save £1b a year. He predicts that, after ten years, such a move would lead to 3,400 fewer deaths and 100,000 fewer hospital admissions a year.
The move would largely affect supermarkets, which are regularly criticised by the pub industry for selling alcohol as a loss leader.
But speaking at a news conference in Downing Street this morning, Gordon Brown said that he would protect the interests of the "sensible majority of moderate drinkers".
"We do not want the responsible, sensible majority of moderate drinkers to have to pay more or suffer as a result of the excesses of a small minority," he said. "And that's the context in which we look at the problems that the chief medical officer has raised."
Brown added that the Government had already taken action to tackle binge drinking and underage drinking.
The Scottish Government has proposed minimum prices for alcohol, which, if approved, would make it the first country in Europe to introduce such as measure.
The legal situation surrounding minimum pricing is complex as it comes into conflict with legislation such as the Resale Price Act of 1964, which considers all retail price agreements to be against the public interest.
By Daniel Thomas
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