Tesco backs minimum price for alcohol

Tesco has called on the Government to consider introducing a minimum price for alcohol in a bid to tackle alcohol abuse.

The supermarket has backed Government plans to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price, unveiled in the coalition agreement announced by the Government yesterday (21 May), but would also like to see further measures considered.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy says the company would “support any future discussions on a minimum price for alcohol”.

No mention of minimum pricing was made in the coalition agreement. However, there was a promise to “review alcohol taxation and pricing to ensure it tackles binge drinking without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers, pubs and important local industries.”  

The Tories have previously favoured a flexible taxation approach where super strength lagers and ciders would carry a higher duty.

Although previously ruled out by Labour for the UK, the SNP-led Scottish Government has been pushing hard for minimum pricing in Scotland to tackle excessive consumption.  

It is also an approach favoured by charities including Alcohol Concern.

However, most major retailers and drinks producers have previously rejected calls for minimum pricing, despite claims that they alcohol could be bought for less than the price of bottled water, arguing that it would hit the majority of responsible drinkers hardest.

Leahy says that any future policy would have to carefully consider all arguments.

“We don’t know the level at which price encourages problem drinking, so any pricing controls will have to be carefully debated to make sure they are effective and proportionate,” he writes in the Telegraph.

Tesco’s decision to back minimum pricing comes as customer research found that almost 70% of consumers believe excessive drinking “is one of the most serious issues facing the UK today”.

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