Concern at binge drinking

LONDON - Tesco said yesterday that it wants to work with the government to limit the sale of cut-price alcohol amid growing concerns over the damage binge drinking does to society.

LONDON - Tesco said yesterday that it wants to work with the government to limit the sale of cut-price alcohol amid growing concerns over the damage binge drinking does to society.

The UK's biggest supermarket chain said it could be accused of breaking competition rules unless ministers change the law to allow higher alcohol prices to be fixed.

Tesco's executive director for corporate and legal affairs, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, said the changes must apply to all retailers, or shoppers would simply go to cheaper outlets.

"All shops that sell alcohol need to act together, and this is where we are being held back by the law," she said. "Competition law prevents businesses discussing anything to do with price with each other.

"The only safe solution is for the government to initiate and lead these discussions."

Supermarkets have come under intense pressure from police, doctors and politicians to raise prices.

They say cheap alcohol fuels youth crime and anti-social behaviour and places a huge strain on the National Health Service and police.

Labour MP for Selby, John Grogan, described Tesco boss Terry Leahy last year as the "godfather of British binge drinking".

A report last month said beer was cheaper than water in some stores.

In a speech last year, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said the government had launched an alcohol strategy and would double spending on alcohol information campaigns this year.

The Liberal Democrats say the strategy has already failed and that a new approach is urgently needed.

Spokesmen for the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform were supposed to comment on Tesco's proposals late yesterday. - Reuters

X