Supermarket booze still 'dangerously cheap' despite minimum price

Caroline Cassidy

The long-awaited fixed minimum price for supermarkets selling alcohol looks set to be announced today but it may not have the desired effect.

Bottles of beer
Bottles of beer

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Ministers are expected to declare that the big name stores must set a minimum price of 38p for a can of lager, £10.71 per litre of vodka, whisky and gin, a bottle of wine should not slip below £2 while a can of cider must be priced at 18p or higher.

Unsurprisingly, critics have suggested that these fixed prices remain "dangerously cheap" - so cheap, in fact, that beers and spirits can still be sold at a lower price than bottled water or soft drinks.

Not so long ago, the Conservatives were promising to ban the below-cost selling of booze, designed to entice customers into stores but since rule only states that alcohol cannot be sold for less than the value of the VAT and the duty owed to the Treasury, supermarkets will still be free to sell booze at a significant loss.

So while Government sources say the move will put and end to "the worst instances of deep discounting and prevent alcohol being sold both cheaply and harmfully", others are not convinced.

Tory MP Andrew Griffiths, who obtained support from 100 MPs urging the Government to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price, told the Daily Mail: "Any attempt to ban below cost selling will face derision if it does not lead to an increase in the cost of alcohol on the supermarket shelves.

"Duty plus VAT will mean supermarkets will still be able to sell cans of strong lager cheaper than Coca-Cola. It will do nothing to end the dangerous cheap drinks promotions that supermarkets have been pushing.

"I know the Government has good intentions but the reality is it will not stop supermarkets selling packs of strong lager cheaper than bottles of water."

And aside from the implications regarding the nation's health, pub landlords continue to argue that more and more are forced to close as they continue to be undercut by the supermarkets.

The crackdown coincides with a Home Office report, due to be published today, which declares that increasing the cost of alcohol would reduce consumption.

What do you think? Is cheap supermarket booze putting pubs out of business or are you in favour of below cost price selling? Leave your comments below...