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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 04:02 GMT
Tesco backs cheap alcohol limits
Tesco says action will have to come from the government
Supermarket giant Tesco says it is willing to work with the government on possible legislation that would limit its ability to sell cut-price alcohol.

The British Medical Association, which says cut-price offers fuel binge drinking, has said it wants tougher restrictions on how alcohol is sold.

Tesco says ministers must take the lead because competition laws stop retailers from artificially raising prices.

The UK's biggest retailer says it would be "commercial suicide" to act alone.

'Active role'

And it said it was too simplistic to blame price alone for binge drinking and other alcohol-related problems.

Supermarkets are not allowed to act together to put up prices
Lucy Neville-Rolfe

However, the supermarket giant said it was prepared to take an active role in discussions about possible legislation on pricing and promotions.

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Tesco's executive director for corporate and legal affairs, said action would have to come from the government.

She said: "We can't put up our prices because people will simply shop elsewhere - it could be commercial suicide - and we can't act together to put up prices because that would be against competition law.

"Supermarkets are not allowed to act together to put up prices because that would be bad for the consumer."

'Binge-drinking godfather'

A report from the BMA is expected to call for government policies to reduce drinking, including reviewing both taxes and 24-hour pub opening.

The drinks industry has already begun lobbying ahead of next month's Budget for a freeze in alcohol duty.

In England, the Department of Health is waiting for the results of an independent review into whether cut-price drinks offers have a direct effect on people's health.

Last December, Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy was branded the "godfather of British binge drinking" by the chairman of the all-party Parliamentary beer group.

Labour MP John Grogan used a Commons debate to push for action against supermarkets selling alcohol below cost price.

The Scottish Government has already said it plans to ban "irresponsible" discounts on alcohol.

In December, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "It's not right that we still have three for two, or buy 3 bottles for 10 deals in our off-sales and supermarkets encouraging people to buy and drink more than they had intended."


Examples of supermarket offers on cheap alcohol

Tesco chief 'is binge godfather'
06 Dec 07 |  UK Politics
Shop alcohol offers 'unethical'
22 Dec 07 |  Scotland
Cut-price alcohol deals face ban
05 Sep 07 |  Scotland

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