Committee calls for ban on below-cost drinks sales

The government needs to find a way of banning below-cost sales of alcohol in the off-trade, according to a report by the Commons Home Affairs Committee.

Today’s report, Policing in the 21st Century, claims: “The cheap availability of alcohol in the off-trade is fuelling alcohol-related crime and disorder and under-age drinking.”

It adds that ministers need to “establish as soon as possible a legal basis for banning the use of loss-leading by supermarkets and setting a minimum price for the sale of alcohol”.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said: “We cannot have on one hand a world of alcohol promotions for profit that fuels surges of crime and disorder, and on the other the police diverting all their resources to cope with it.”

The report, compiled after lengthy discussions with police forces, also calls for an end to drinks promotions in pubs but adds that raising the off-trade legal purchasing age to 21, as favoured in Scotland, will not discourage under-age drinking.

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the WSTA, repeated his claims that there were already sufficient laws to crack down on alcohol-related disorder – “but the police do not have the resources they need to enforce them”.

He added: “Calls for Government to set the price of alcohol or raise prices for everyone are simply unfair, particularly in the current economic climate and will do nothing to stop the small minority who misuse alcohol.

“Rather than using the blunt instrument of tax or price, the government ought to build on the examples of good partnership between the industry, police and local government to reduce alcohol harm.”