Government ministers blame grocers
Supermarkets selling cheap beer and wine could be under fire from the Government's new Alcohol Strategy, which was unveiled today.

The strategy focuses on measures to tackle the health and social effects of excessive drinking, especially in teenagers. According to ministers, low prices and special promotions are one reason for the surge in problem drinking. The Government wants manufacturers and retailers to be more responsible and has said it is prepared to legislate if this is not the case. Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said the option of banning ads and happy hours is also being considered.

However, the British Retail Consortium has slammed the idea that supermarkets encourage excessive or underage drinking and said retailers are at the forefront of the drive to promote responsible consumption.

BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'Retailers are leading the alcohol industry on efforts to prevent underage sales and they are providing customers with clear information to enable them to make sensible choices. On excessive drinking and its effects, retailers are an easy target, but not the right one.'

He added: 'Alcohol price-cutting by supermarkets does not create problem drinking. Very few supermarket customers buy just alcohol and it isn't aimed at immediate consumption. Banning discounting, even if it was possible under competition law, would simply penalise the vast majority of customers who take it home to drink over a period or at family events.'