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Tesco supports government pricing schemes

The UK’s largest retailer has welcomed the new coalition government’s decision to clamp down on the sale of below-cost alcohol in England and Wales.

Tesco boss Terry Leahy has also declared the supermarket would welcome further discussions on the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol.

The opinion of the store was formed following customer research conducted by Tesco, in which it discovered that nearly 70% of its customers thought excessive drinking was one of the most serious issues facing the country.

He said: “These figures ought to set the politicians thinking – they have certainly got Tesco thinking.

“We are announcing today some ideas which we hope will kick-start a proper debate and lead to some real progress.

“We welcome the new government’s commitment to act on below-cost selling of alcohol and today I pledge that we will support government-led action to make this happen across the UK. We will also support any future discussions on a minimum price for alcohol.”

Tesco’s stance, which was made public in The Daily Telegraph on Friday last week, polarises various industry sectors.

Understandably, the government was pleased with Leahy’s comments, as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the BBC that he welcomed Tesco’s "swift decision" to support the ban.

Lansley added: "There is a vast social and financial cost attached to irresponsible drinking. We need to tackle not only issues of supply but also the behavioural drivers that lead to irresponsible behaviour.”

Also in favour of banning the sale of alcohol below cost is the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. Its chief executive, Jeremy Beadles, said: “The WSTA supports a ban on selling alcohol below the level of duty plus VAT on the basis that these are both consumer taxes and therefore the cost should be passed on to the consumer.”

However, Beadles is not in favour of the controversial minimum pricing proposal, adding: “While the WSTA remains opposed to minimum pricing we are keen to work with the government on the issue of below-cost selling to ensure any future legislation does not discriminate against any particular section of the drinks industry.

“We do not believe that alcohol pricing and taxation provide the solution to alcohol misuse. What’s needed is education and rigorous enforcement of laws to address misuse and related anti-social behaviour.”

The announcement from Tesco has provoked a number of outbursts on the BBC’s website by its readers.

One comment said: “I find this talk of minimum pricing or banning low cost drink sales abhorrent on the basis that these policies essentially say that alcoholism is a disease of the poor. This attitude is patronising and incorrect.”

Another reader commented: “These rules come from a nanny state that penalises the majority of drinkers that can and do consume responsibly. Why would a large supermarket firm driven by profits not want some sort of intervention on this issue? Sadly the supermarkets won’t be getting a contribution from me as I will be buying in bulk from France.”

As well as reviewing pricing policies, the coalition government pledges to “overhaul the Licencing Act to give local authorities an the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse grant licences to, any premises that are causing problems.”

Jane Parkinson, 24.05.2010

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