British government ditches minimum alcohol price plan

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's government on Wednesday ditched plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in England and Wales to deal with binge-drinking, sparking anger from health campaigners.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron had said last year that a minimum price would help stop the "scourge of violence" in town centres and cut alcohol-related deaths.

"We do not yet have enough concrete evidence that its introduction would be effective in reducing harms associated with problem drinking... without penalising people who drink responsibly," Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said.

Mr Browne said the government had also decided not to ban multi-buy promotions, because of a lack of evidence that it would reduce consumption.

The decision means England and Wales will have different rules to Scotland, which became the first part of Britain to introduce a minimum price in May last year.

Heavily discounted alcohol sold in supermarkets has been blamed for much of the rowdy behaviour seen on British streets at the weekends, as party-goers fill up on cheap booze before going out to clubs and bars.

A consultation document proposed a base price of about 45 pence (86 Singapore cents) per 10-millilitre unit of alcohol. Lawmakers responded angrily to the government's decision.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, a former family doctor, said the government had "backed down for short term political expediency".

The decision comes just days after the government announced it would hold off plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes.

Mr Cameron on Wednesday rejected fresh accusations that the decision on cigarette packets is linked to the fact that his party's strategic advisor Lynton Crosby's public relations firm once acted on behalf of tobacco companies.

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