End of the line for cheap booze

Bargain Booze
Bargain Booze

THE government is planning to end cheap supermarket booze deals by introducing minimum pricing on alcoholic drinks.

Prime Minister David Cameron is understood to be keen to bring in a new pricing policy on drinks aimed at curbing Britain’s binge drinking culture that costs the NHS billions of pounds every year.

Next month will see the government publish its Alcohol Strategy in a bid to reduce the health risks associated with alcohol.

One measure being discussed is to introduce minimum pricing of alcohol – between 40p and 50p per unit – to crackdown on cheap booze deals in supermarkets and off licences.

Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood is secretary of the Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Harm Reduction group in Parliament and said a minimum unit price would target supermarkets and not pubs.

“Alcohol misuse and abuse is a massive problem that wreaks more havoc in our society and costs more to deal with than hard drugs overall, and we can’t keep ignoring it,” he said.

“There is a series of measures the government should take, and unit pricing is one that would be a major step forward.

“It would stop alcohol being used as a loss leader by supermarkets and lessen the chances of binge drinking. Targeting the behaviour of supermarkets in this way would benefit public houses, which generally offer a far better, safer and more manageable environment for drinking

“The way supermarkets price alcohol is a major factor in binge drinking and the knock-on costs in terms of health services and policing.”

Britain’s pub trade has suffered in recent years and Neil Barker, landlord of the Marsh, in Cleckheaton, believes forcing supermarkets to pay duty on alcohol would create a level playing field for pubs and retailers.

“At the moment, pubs pay 76p plus VAT on alcohol,” he said.

“If a supermarket offers three cases of beer for £20, they will pay £4 in tax. A pub would pay £28. It’s not a level playing field.”