MPs join cheap booze debate

All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group calls for minimum pricing on alcohol

An influential group of MPs has joined a growing number of calls for minimum pricing on alcohol.

The All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, which has nearly 400 members, urged the Treasury to take differences in on and off-trade pricing into account when it makes decisions about beer duty. The c all was made in a report

from an inquiry into the future of community pubs published last week.

The inquiry's co-chair Janet Dean MP said

pubs "are labouring against the twin evils of cheap supermarket beer and a regulatory backlash from government seeking to curb alcohol disorder problems not of their making".

The call came after health professionals, academics and some

trade members called for minimum pricing and other measures to curb off-trade discounting at the Westminster Health Forum seminar on alcohol and responsibility.

Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, said: "Cheap alcohol is the cancer at the middle of our drink culture at the moment and we need to do something about these sorts of prices."

Guy Mason, public affairs manager for Asda, told the conference

that the company was against minimum pricing. "It would punish 80% of our customers to manage the 20% who do misuse alcohol," he said. "There are many thousands of customers out there who can only afford small amounts of alcohol, they have constrained incomes ."

Press reports this week said ministers have shelved plans to introduce minimum pricing because they fear a public outcry if drinks prices are forced up in the current economic climate.

Results of the second phase of an independent report on the effects of alcohol pricing and promotions by Sheffield University, commissioned by the Department of Health, are due to be released next month.