Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Supermarkets need to sell alcohol responsibly

As one who has frequently advocated tighter controls on the price of alcohol, I welcome the new Government's commitment to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price.

Equally, I welcome the support for this measure by the likes of Tesco and hopefully other supermarkets.

However, I have one question: why does it take legislation for supermarkets to take their social responsibilities seriously? For years now, the main supermarkets in Northern Ireland have been tripping over themselves to provide cheaper alcohol. They have promoted alcohol sales as loss-leaders; they have discounted alcohol to irresponsible levels and clearly this approach has contributed to our culture of under-age drinking.

So, I have a few questions for the likes of Tesco and others: if you so support the Government's new proposals, will you implement these proposals now - before they become law?

Will you commit yourselves not to have ridiculously cheap drinks promotions? What about during the World Cup? Will you keep your prices at a responsible level?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, all I can say is that your talk and support is as cheap as your lager.

The cynic in me goes even further: the cynic in me believes your current support is simply a ruse, a ruse attempting to convince the Government that you really are responsible and, that being the case, you don't need legislation. A case of 'sure, we can regulate ourselves'.

Let's hope the Government doesn't fall for that nonsense.

MARK W NEALE

Portadown, Co Armagh

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