The UK Prime Minister has cooled talk of a minimum price for alcoholic drinks across England, after the Government's chief medical officer recommended the move as a way to tackle alcohol abuse.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has today (16 Monday) called for a minimum price of of 50p per unit of alcohol to be placed on drinks across England and Wales, following similar proposals unveiled by the Scottish government last month.

Donaldson's comments are likely to prove contentious among Government ministers, however.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, responding to a question at the G20 summit press conference, appeared to distance himself from minimum pricing.

He acknowledged the need to "crack down" on binge drinking and underage drinkers, but added that "we do not want the responsible majority of moderate drinkers to have to pay more".

Before Christmas, UK home secretary Jacqui Smith ruled out setting a 'floor price' for alcohol in the short-to-medium term. She told Parliament: "Given the current economic climate in particular, we do not intend at this moment to introduce this sort of minimum price."

Drinks industry bodies have fiercely attacked the idea of minimum pricing, arguing that it will punish the majority for the behaviour of a minority of consumers.

Several drinks trade bodies in the UK are seeking legal advice on plans proposed earlier this month to introduce a minimum price in Scotland, outlined by the ruling Scottish National Party in its strategy for tackling alcohol-related harm.

Legal advice obtained by the industry suggests that there would be serious issues with both competition law and international trade law, several sources have told just-drinks.