Patricia Hewitt has called for taxes on alcohol to “really increase” in an effort to curb binge drinking.

Speaking to a children's newspaper, the health secretary said that tax increases should focus on ready-to-drink 'alcopops' because they were popular among young drinkers.

Hewitt said: “I am asking Gordon Brown, when he comes forward with the budget next year, to really increase taxes on alcohol. And particularly things like alcopops and some of the stuff that quite a lot of teenage boys and girls are drinking, because we've got a real problem with binge drinkers among young people.”

She added: “We've got enormous numbers of young people, particularly on a Friday and Saturday night, ending up in the casualty department because they're drunk. I think putting taxes up on alcohol would help discourage young people from spending too much money on alcohol.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health confirmed: “She has written to the Treasury and asked for this to be looked at. It's up to them to decide, but this is her considered view.”