Brewer calls for minimum pricing

SUFFOLK-based pubs and brewing group Greene King yesterday called on the Ministers to introduce targeted minimum pricing for alcohol to help change the UK’s drinking culture.

The policy agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats proposes a ban on the sale of alchohol by retailers at below cost price, a measure included in both parties’ election manifesto.

However, Bury St Edmunds-based Greene King urged the Government to go further and impose minimum pricing on retailers.

And with �38million of alcohol estimated to have been sold by the UK’s five biggest supermerkets at below-cost prices during the last FIFA World Cup, Greene King called for a review of minimum and below-cost pricing to be carried out urgently ahead of this summer’s tournament, with many retailers already slashing prices. Minimum pricing was also included in the Liberal Demomocrat manifesto but the coalition’s policy agreement makes no specific reference to it, although it might yet be included in a wider overhaul of licensing laws.

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said yesterday: “Excessive drinking by a minority of alcohol consumers is fuelled by its availability at heavily discounted prices, particularly high strength alcohol products and lager brands brought off-trade.

“Changing alcohol taxation may go some way to addressing some of these issues, but we would urge the Government to explore further the minimum pricing route, which, if targeted at appropriate products, would ensure that the pensioner enjoying a glass of sherry would not be penalised, nor lovers of ale who want to enjoy a pint or two in their local or in the comfort of their own homes.

“We need to ensure a level playing field for all who sell alcohol. Responsible retailers should have nothing to fear.”

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Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy yesterday backed the Government’s decision to act on minimum pricing and said the company would also support any future discussions on minimum pricing.

He said a survey of Tesco customers found that nearly 70% thought excessive drinking was one of the most serious issues facing the country.