David Cameron will overrule Cabinet colleagues to push through plans setting a minimum price for alcohol, it has been reported.
Officials have been ordered to draw up proposals for a 40-50p unit floor price in English shops and supermarkets, according to the DailyTelegraph.
The move is expected to cost drinkers an additional £700million a year and the extra tax revenue could go to the NHS, the newspaper added.
Minimum pricing has the biggest impact on the cheapest and strongest drinks and earlier this month a group of leading academics and health experts claimed the move would save thousands of lives.
Scotland’s administration is pushing through legislation for a minimum unit price, though Holyrood health secretary Nicola Sturgeon admits it is “almost certain” to meet a legal challenge.
Andrew Lansley has previously warned that such a move would not meet European competition rules. That viewed has been echoed by the business department but the prime minister favours a radical “big bang” approach, according to the Telegraph.
A Whitehall source told the newspaper: “The prime minister has decided that when it comes to alcohol, something pretty radical now has to be done and he is keen onthe minimum price. It is complicated how this can be delivered, particularly under European law, but it is clear that the voluntary approach has not worked.”
A government spokesman said: “The government will continue toreview all available evidence. Our alcohol strategy, which we will set out shortly, will outline what further steps we are taking to tackle this problem. No decisions have been made.”