CAMRA slams government plans on below-cost selling

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

CAMRA said today the government's plans for a ban on below-cost selling will do nothing to stop the tide of pub closures across the country. The...

CAMRA said today the government's plans for a ban on below-cost selling will do nothing to stop the tide of pub closures across the country.

The goverment will announce later this morning that it plans to ban alcohol being sold below duty plus VAT - but this will have little effect on cut-price off-trade deals.

CAMRA's chief executive Mike Benner said undercutting by the off-trade would still occur and pubs would carry on closing as a result.

He added: "Today's decision means pubs will continue to close as they are undercut by supermarkets selling canned beers at pocket money prices," Benner said.

"A ban on selling beer at below duty plus VAT will have a negligible impact as supermarkets sell only a tiny proportion of beer at below these levels."

Benner said a floor price of around 40 pence a unit was essential to prevent supermarkets selling alcohol at a loss. The average cost of a pint of beer in a pub is now around the £3 mark.

"The government's decision to set a floor price of only 21 pence a unit is a betrayal of their previous promise to ban the sale of alcohol at below-cost and means supermarkets will continue to be able to sell alcohol as a loss-leader."

Martin Caffrey, operations director of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations (FLVA), said that the measure "would do absolutely nothing whatsoever in terms of solving problems around binge drinking".

He added: "There are so many things wrong with it and it may even delay something of importance happening."

Professor Ian Gilmore, a longtime campaigner on alcohol-related health issues and former president of the Royal College of Physicians, told BBC Radio Five Live today that the government had a duty to act to protect the health of drinkers by making cheap alcohol a thing of the past.

And he said that a higher minimum price than the one being proposed by the government would not hit pubs.

Chris Sorek, head of Drinkaware, told the BBC that supply and price were not the only factors driving alcohol abuse. "We need to change people's relationship with alcohol as well," he said.

However Diageo, the drinks giant which produces Smirnoff vodka and is against political interference on alcohol pricing, said the government's plan was "the least distorting option worthy of further consideration".

CAMRA's Mike Benner reminded the coalition partners in government that they had both made manifesto commitments for a ban on below cost sales of alcohol.

"For any ban to have a meaningful impact it is vital that the cost of alcohol production is factored in, which for beer will produce a floor price of around 40p a unit - double what is being proposed.

"It is a blow to pub goers that with pub prices approaching £3 a pint the Government have decided to give the green light to the supermarkets to charge as little as 47 pence a pint."

Benner said the government appeared "all too ready to impose higher costs and regulations on well-run community pubs but are prepared to turn a blind eye to the irresponsible attitude towards alcohol expressed by the supermarkets".

Related topics: Beer