Alcohol wholesalers have said the new below-cost sales ban on booze is ‘not fit for purpose’

A ban on ‘below-cost’ sales of alcohol has been labelled “not fit for purpose” by alcohol wholesalers, who have called on the Home Office to take a “tougher stance” on excessive alcohol consumption.

In a meeting with Norman Baker MP yesterday, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) called on the minister to reconsider plans for a minimum unit pricing (MUP), which was ditched by the government last year.

The below-cost ban, announced in guidance to retailers and suppliers on Tuesday, is set to come into force on 6 April and will ban the sale of alcohol at heavily discounted prices. The guidance sets a ‘floor price’ of 41p for a can of 4% ABV lager and £2.41 for a 750ml bottle of 12.5% ABV wine.

“We have asked the Home Office to reconsider the prime minister’s call for a minimum price per unit of alcohol”

James Bielby, FWD

But critics say the measures will affect just 1.3% of all units of alcohol sold.

The FWD said the introduction of a ban on below-cost selling would have a “negligible effect” on excessive alcohol consumption and its related harms and that “market prices should not be set by supermarkets deals which do not cover the cost of production, distribution or promotion”.

“The government is right to identify supermarket promotions as contributing to the worst examples of harmful drink and we have asked the minister to ensure that any solution is applied to all irresponsible pricing, rather than focusing on individual products,” said FWD CEO James Bielby.

“However, the definition of below cost as duty + VAT is widely acknowledged as not fit for purpose, and we have asked the Home Office to reconsider the prime minister’s call for a minimum price per unit of alcohol.”

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Labour MP Kevin Barron accused the government of having “dumped the idea that alcohol is a threat to the public health of this country”, while Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow expressed support for MUP and said it would make a “significant contribution” to tackling alcohol abuse and associated health and crime issues.

Home Office guidance on below-cost selling of alcohol can be viewed here (PDF).

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