Watered-down government plans to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price are so weak they will make little difference, campaigners have said.
The ban, expected to be announced later, was promised as part of efforts to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder which costs the taxpayer up to £13 billion each year.
But the much-touted move will see cost price defined as just duty plus VAT and will have little if any impact on cut-price supermarket deals, campaigners said.
A can of lager will cost at least 38p and a litre of vodka at least £10.71 under the move, it is understood.
It will be seen as a retreat from the coalition Government’s pledge to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price and will stop short of setting a minimum price for the alcohol itself.
Doctors’ leaders warned the ban “doesn’t go far enough”. “It’s not minimum pricing, it’s not really going to make that much difference,” a spokeswoman for the British Medical Association (BMA) said. “What we’re calling for is tough action.”
Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, also warned that the move “will not go any way towards resolving this country’s binge drinking problem”.
“Duty is so low in the UK that it will still be possible to sell very cheap alcohol and be within the law,” he said.
The British Beer and Pub Association added that while the ban “will stamp out the worst cases of below-cost selling”, “it will not have a significant impact on low-priced alcohol in supermarkets”.
Chief executive Brigid Simmonds added: “With 70% of alcohol now sold in the off-trade, there is a real need for the Government to do more to support the pub.”