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A LEADING Bolton health expert has condemned the Prime Minister’s u-turn over minimum alcohol pricing.

The Royal Bolton Hospital’s Dr Kieran Moriarty joined 21 other health professionals calling for the government to stop “dancing to the tune of the drinks industry”.

An investigation by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) also revealed that ministers and officials met representatives from large drinks firms on numerous occasions — after the formal consultation on minimum pricing had closed.

Dr Moriarty, a consultant gastroenterologist, said: “We have seen an epidemic of alcohol-related liver disease. The main group who are affected are people drinking large quantities of cider, lager and cheap spirits.

“We are seeing patients of all ages, including teenagers, with liver sclerosis due to consumption of strong alcohol which is available at ‘pocket money prices’.

“The introduction of the minimum pricing for alcohol has been shown to lead to a significant reduction in alcohol related mortality, hospital admissions and days lost in the workplace.”

David Cameron committed the government to introducing minimum pricing in March 2012, but the policy was scrapped in July last year.

Jeremy Browne, then a Home Office minister, told the House of Commons at the time that the government lacked “concrete evidence that its introduction would be effective in reducing harms . . . without penalising people who drink responsibly”.

Yet John Holmes, a public health research fellow at Sheffield University, told the BMJ that the first draft of research, which concluded that minimum pricing would reduce alcohol consumption and harms, was sent to the Home Office as early as February 2013.

Dr Moriarty added his signature to a letter sent to The Telegraph criticising the government’s latest actions.

The letter stated: “This new information serves to fuel fears that big business is trumping public health concerns in Westminster, with private profits put before policies designed to protect the nation’s most vulnerable groups.