The number of alcohol-related accident and emergency admissions among children under 16 has increased by 17 per cent in five years, according to newly released figures.

The Liberal Democrats said there were 650 admissions of under-10s in the past five years - an average of one every 72 hours. The figures were collated from the answer to a parliamentary question.

In the same period, 24,000 under-16s and 13,000 16 and 17 year olds were admitted.

There were 640,000 admissions among over-18s, with the figure increasing 80 per cent over the last five years, the party said.

Liberal Democrat culture, media and sport secretary Don Foster said: "The government has talked a lot about the growing alcohol problem, but completely failed to tackle it.

"Britain is in danger of sinking into an epidemic of alcohol-related illness. We cannot continue to ignore the seriousness of the health crisis facing this country.

"Ministers must conduct an urgent review of the systems in place which are meant to be ensuring that young children cannot have access to such harmful substances."

The party will this week publish its strategy to tackle underage and binge drinking.

It comes as the Commons home affairs select committee recommends the government set a minimum price for alcohol to help prevent drink-related crime.

"The cheap availability of alcohol in the off-trade is fuelling alcohol-related crime and disorder and underage drinking," said its Policing in the 21st Century report, published today.

"We recommend the government establish as soon as possible a legal basis for banning the use of loss-leading by supermarkets and setting a minimum price for the sale of alcohol."