A cross-party group of MPs is pressing for tougher legislation to curb the sale of cheap booze, which it says is fuelling binge drinking and anti-social behaviour.

Headed by Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Sandra Gidley, MPs have tabled a Private Members' Bill on pricing and labelling to stop alcohol being sold as loss leaders.

"It would appear to make sense to place a duty on retailers to prove they are not selling alcoholic drinks as loss leaders," said Gidley, who belongs to the all-party groups on wine, beer and cider and is MP for Romsey.

"Selling alcohol as a loss leader to increase footage is deeply irresponsible."

Gidley put the cost of alcohol misuse at £20bn a year and argued that heavy drinkers and under-age drinkers were more affected by price than others.

The move follows a Commons motion tabled last December by the chairman of the All-Party Beer Group, John Grogan, in which he claimed that differences in the cost of alcohol in pubs and off-trade sales was exacerbating binge drinking.

This was challenged by the Association of Convenience Stores and supermarket chains.

Gidley insisted the bill's backers were not anti-alcohol and just wanted to see more responsible retail practices. Alcohol abuse and binge drinking would become an even more important political issue as public concern and media coverage mounted, she predicted.

She also pointed to the Royal College of Physicians' recommendation to the Competition Commission inquiry.

"The result of below-cost selling is likely to be a rise in consumption, leading to more alcohol-related disease, social disorder and other social problems," it claimed in its submission in February.

Similar moves to crack down on cheap alcohol have been promised in Scotland by the SNP, which has pledged to curb in-store deals through legislation.