Anger as PM ‘backs’ local bid

Prime Minister David Cameron has been criticised after appearing to back local minimum pricing schemes for alcohol.

Cameron said he was not in favour of a national minimum pricing scheme for drinks, but he would look “very ­sympathetically” at schemes such as the one in Manchester where the council wants a 50p-a-unit minimum.

The Cheshire & Merseyside Public Health network, CHAMPS, was also said to be exploring the idea this week.

Cameron said: “I think if what you’re trying to do is stop supermarkets from selling 20 tins of Stella for a fiver, that’s what we’ve got to go after.

“I want to try to help end the deep ­discounting on alcohol.”?But he warned that any by-law ­introduced by Manchester would need approval from the Home Secretary and that the minimum pricing scheme risked being blocked on competition grounds.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “While it is important that communities have the ability to influence the licensing policy and act to tackle alcohol-related problems, it is also important that what they do is evidence-based and effective.

“The government has already ­concluded that minimum pricing would not be an effective tool in tackling ­problem drinking, so it is difficult to understand why David Cameron would support the policy at a local level.

“If local minimum pricing is ­implemented, local shops and national businesses alike will be hit hard by people shopping elsewhere so that they can avoid the restrictions. The Prime ­Minister’s ­comments are irresponsible at a time when many local shops are ­fighting just to stay open.”?A spokesman for the Wine & Spirit Trade Association said: “The WSTA ­supports a ban on selling alcohol below the level of duty plus VAT and we are working with government as they consult on this issue, not least to ensure any future legislation does not discriminate against any ­particular section of the drinks industry.

“Our view is that such a policy would have to be applied nationally to work effectively and it does not make sense to propose local minimum pricing that is both illegal and impractical.”