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UK – Labour ‘plans alcohol crackdown’

(London) A Labour government would impose tough restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcohol, unhealthy food and tobacco, according to a leaked policy document.

The plan would end sports sponsorship by drinks firms and impose minimum alcohol pricing in an effort to cut the impact of drinking on Britons’ health.

There would also be new laws to curb the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food aimed at children, and a ban on advertising unhealthy products on TV before the 9pm watershed.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the plans are contained in a report to the “society” sub-group of the shadow cabinet.

Setting out the reasons for the clampdown on alcohol, the Labour document says: ‘Up to 35% of all A&E attendances and ambulance costs may be alcohol related and up to 70% at weekend peak times.”

The plan includes an end to drinks firms sponsoring sporting events by 2020 : “The promotion of alcohol through the sponsorship of sport should be phased out during the course of the Parliament.”

The newspaper said a ban on all sponsorship by drinks companies would cost the sporting world £300 million a year, affect 11 Premiership football teams and spell t he end for Budweiser’s sponsorship of the FA Cup, Heineken’s branding of the European Cup rugby tournament and Crabbie’s support of the Grand National.

The proposals also include introducing a minimum price for alcohol and restrictions on where drink could be sold in supermarkets.

“The positioning of alcohol retail space in supermarkets should be regulated, for example, being limited to a single defined area physically distant from the doors,” i t said .

There would also be measures to tackle smoking so that “children born in 2015 will become the first smoke-free generation for hundreds of years.”

The plan would involve a ban on smoking in cars with children present – a measure that has already been backed by MPs – and the introduction of plain packaging.

The newspaper said measures to combat obesity could result in a ban on some high-sugar breakfast cereals and an end to sweets at the supermarket checkout.

“They should not be permitted to stock confectionery and other unhealthy foods adjacent to checkout tills,” the document states.

Meanwhile Ed Miliband came under pressure from more than 30 of his prospective parliamentary candidates to take the railways back into public ownership.

In a letter to The Observer they said: “Train companies walk away with hundreds of millions of pounds every year, despite running monopoly services and benefiting from £4 billion of public investment in the rail network every year.

“These profits are even helping keep down rail fares on the continent as many of Britain’s rail services are run by subsidiaries of the state railways of France, Germany and the Netherlands.

“Yet the not-for-private-profit model that works so well on the East Coast line has shown how there is a better way to run Britain’s rail services. As well as making over £1 billion of franchise payments to government, East Coast reinvests all of its further profit to benefit passengers.

“A commitment to extend this successful model to the rest of the rail network, as existing contracts come to an end, would mean that hundreds of millions currently lost in private profit would be available to fully fund a bold offer on rail fares.”

The demand was echoed by former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, who used his Sunday Mirror column to say Mr Miliband should announce the renationalisation at the autumn party conference.

He said: “Ed Miliband says he wants to look at innovative ways of running our railway system. Well, 19 of these 25 railway franchises will have to be renegotiated over the next five years. So let each one lapse and pull them back into public ownership.

“It won’t cost a penny in compensation, would allow us to invest, keep fares lower and prove enormously popular to the public – 66%.”

A Labour spokesman said the leaked paper “represents a wide range of options” but was not official party policy.

“Improving public health is crucial to people’s quality of life. That’s why we’ve rightly pressed the Government to end their opposition to plain cigarette packaging,” the spokesman said.

“This paper represents a wide range of options and not Labour party policy.”

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: “It’s the same old Labour. They claim they’re worried about prices – but want to put up the cost of a drink. Not only would that make a drink after work more expensive, it would hit pubs hard, putting many out of business.

“It’s becoming clearer every day that Ed Miliband just offers more of the same old Labour, and no economic plan to secure Britain’s future.”

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