A plan to enforce minimum pricing on alcohol which is due to be announced by the government later today, is being cautiously supported by retailers.
Under the proposals the retailers, pubs and bars will have to charge customers at least the cost of tax they pay on alcoholic products.
This will mean that the minimum cost of a can of beer will still be below a £1 and the initiative should have little effect on most supermarket prices.
Andrew Opie, Food Director for the British Retail Consortium, commented: “Retailers have mixed views about the need for legal intervention on alcohol pricing.
“But, if the government is determined to legislate, the simple formula of duty plus VAT is at least a straightforward mechanism.”
Concerns that ‘loss-leading’ promotions on alcohol by retailers were spurring binge drinking led to the Home Office setting up a public consultation on alcohol pricing, which took place between July and September.
Today’s proposals will come as a relief to many retailers who would have feared far stricter restrictions upon pricing, with a 45p per unit tariff previously touted.
Retail groups lobbied hard during this time to argue that education and community work rather than punitive financial penalties would be most beneficial in tackling alcoholism and alcohol related anti-social behaviour.
Opie added: “Most people who buy alcohol enjoy it sensibly and safely.
“Retailers are all totally committed to the objective of reducing irresponsible drinking. They continue to invest massively in education and information to change the culture around drinking.”
Previous research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggested that rather than reducing drinking amongst the public, minimum pricing would just increase revenues for retailers, with a 45p per unit law generating £400 million for the industry.