Pushing the minimum price of alcohol to 45p would ‘do nothing to curb binge drinking’ and only damaged responsible consumers, according to North West MEP Paul Nuttall.
The government’s decision to further increase the cost of booze would mean that alcohol costs almost a third more than at the start of 2011, as David Cameron continues to tackle health problems caused by drinking.
But Mr Nuttall insists that it is sensible drinkers who will feel the effects of the price rise as opposed to battling young bingers.
“Imposing a minimum 45p per unit will be a blow for the majority of moderate drinkers in this country who just like a quiet drink at home. But it will not tackle the problem it is designed to solve,” said the UKIP deputy leader.
“And I find it bizarre that David Cameron, who generally falls over backwards to do as our masters in Brussels demand, is ploughing on with this scheme despite it being illegal under EU laws.
“What they are doing is imposing their will on us in the name of it being in our best interests, which invariably means less freedom and higher costs.”
Health Ministers expect the 45p minimum price to save 700 lives annually, decrease total consumption by 3.3%, hospital admissions by 25,000 and mean that 5,000 less incidents of crime will occur.
However, the MEP claims that it will be casual consumers who consistently feel the pinch.
“I am all in favour of ending loss-leader discounting in supermarkets and off licences which has played a significant role in the downfall of our pub industry and it would be nice to think it might mean more people going back to them,” he added.
“But those who just like to have a glass of wine or two with their meal or a couple of cans of lager while putting their feet up this will hit hard. Everyone has to count their pennies these days.
“As always it is the law abiding sensible majority that pays for all the ill thought out government schemes.
“Yes, we have a binge drinking problem, mainly involving young people, but minimum pricing will not solve it,” said Mr Nuttall.
Former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley defended the government’s plans during Commons Business questions and said that the increase would contribute to decreasing alcohol abuse.
“The Government are clear that a minimum unit price will contribute to tackling what are deep-seated issues in relation to binge-drinking and alcohol abuse,” he said.
“I have to say from my point of view, if you look for example at the Chief Medical Officer’s report just the week before last, that this country has such high relative levels of death from liver disease and it is rising when in other countries it is falling, tells us we have to do something.”
The increase would mean a can of lager would cost a minimum of £1.56 and a bottle of wine would have to be sold for £4.22.