Diageo considers alcohol-pricing proposal

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Guinness manufacturer Diageo is considering backing a ban on selling alcohol below the cost of duty and VAT – but denied any link between price and problem drinking, it was reported today.

In its submission to the UK’s Home Office consultation on a proposed overhaul of licensing laws, which closes next week, the maker of Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff said it would oppose any other kind of minimum pricing restriction, the Sunday Telegraph said.

Mark Baird, corporate social responsibility manager for Diageo UK, told the newspaper: “Our position has always been that we don’t believe there’s a relationship between price and alcohol harm, so we’re fully against minimum pricing.

“There’s a view that some alcohol sold at very low prices is damaging, so we believe the coalition’s proposal to look at sales below cost is worthy of further consideration.”

He added any support for such a limit would be “to address the public perception of alcohol rather than because we believe price is connected with alcohol-related harm.”

Some of Diageo’s competitors have argued that it could have the opposite effect on prices. Molson Coors, the US-Canadian brewing giant which makes Carling in the UK, said that it could drive prices even lower.

Nick Lakin, head of corporate responsibility at Molson Coors, said: “Extremely cheap alcohol prices are not good for society and we believe some form of pricing intervention may be required. Price point is important, we agree there is a connection between price and consumption.”

Molson Coors has met officials from the Home Office and the Treasury, which is holding a separate consultation on alcohol duty.

Asda has already pledged not to sell alcohol below the cost of duty and VAT and Tesco has backed a discussion on minimum pricing between retailers, the drinks industry and the British government.

As well as pricing, the UK’s Home Office is examining opening hours and how to tackle loutish behaviour at closing time.


Source: The Irish Examiner, 29/08/10