A LEADING health expert has welcomed a proposal by the Government to set a minimum price for alcohol but has called on MPs to impose a bigger price hike.

The Home Office has launched a 10-week public consultation to a plan to make the minimum price of one unit of alcohol 45p.across England and Wales.

Dominic Harrison, the Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health, has urged ministers to go further.

He said: “While I believe this move is a definite step in the right direction, I would like to see a 50p minimum price introduced, which would only increase the benefits.

“The potential that could come from this could be huge, not only in terms of reducing alcohol abuse and improving health, but also cutting crime and social problems.

“I want to stress this is not about banning alcohol or being killjoys, but the price of alcohol is so low now that it almost invites people to drink too often and to excess.”

If the coalition chose to impose a 50p minimum, as it stands in Scotland, two thirds of prices in supermarkets and off licences would rise with a bottle of vodka increasing in price from £9 to £13.13.

Steve Magnall, managing director of Black burn-based brewers Thwaites said: “Any move that will begin to align pricing of alcohol between the on and off trade is positive news for pub licensees and consumers, as it will encourage people back in to the pubs where they drink in a controlled environment.”

But not everyone is in favour of the move.

David Grant, managing direc tor at Burnley-based Moor house’s, said: “There are many responsible people who like a drink and don’t want to have to pay high prices for it, these people will be penalised by the rise.”

Miles Beale, chief cxecutive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “Minimum unit pricing and the proposed restrictions to promotions are wholly untargeted and will unfairly punish millions of consumers and businesses in the UK, while doing nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse or associated crime and disorder.”