The government is trying to get rid of a law banning the sale of liqueur chocolates to under-16s even though retailers and drinks manufacturers believe there is no need to change the current restrictions, it has emerged.

The industry has come under fire from MPs, the House of Lords and health campaigners ever since the government’s proposal - put forward as part of efforts to slash red tape - became public in March. Critics said it was “a slippery slope”, which could wean youngsters on to alcohol, especially in the run-up to Christmas when boxes of liqueur chocolates are popular.

But this week, industry groups said they had been left bemused as to why ministers were seeking to do away with the law, as nobody from the industry had asked for it to be dropped. “While we support the government’s move to reduce unnecessary red tape on business, we do not believe changes to restrictions on the sale of liqueurs chocolate are necessary,” said William Boyack, public affairs manager of the wine and Spirit Trade Association. “Retailers have strict age verification policies in place and take their responsibilities around the sale of alcohol very seriously.”

It is illegal to sell liqueur chocolates to under-16s, but the new law, which has been included in the Deregulation Bill currently going through parliament, would allow chocs containing less than 200ml of alcohol per kg to be sold to youngsters. MPs described the current law as antiquated and said the alcohol levels in liqueur chocolates were so low that children were more likely to be sick from the amount of chocolate they ate than get drunk on the alcohol.

Campaigners have opposed the clause, with Labour peer Lord Brooke warning lifting the ban would create a new market for unscrupulous alcohol companies.