February 4, 2014 / 3:10 PM / 4 years ago

UK government readies ban on below-cost alcohol sales

LONDON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Retailers in England and Wales will be banned from selling alcohol at below-cost prices from April under proposals published by the government on Tuesday which flesh out plans to limit excess drinking.

The proposals will mean supermarkets and all other licensed retailers can no longer sell alcohol for less than the combined cost of government-imposed duties and value added tax (VAT).

The step is expected to affect 1.3 percent of the total alcohol market.

“Banning the sale of alcohol below duty plus VAT will stop the worst examples of very cheap and harmful drink,” said Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker. He said alcohol-related crime cost the country 11 billion pounds ($17.97 billion) per year.

The ban, which would mean a standard bottle of wine could not be sold for less than 2.41 pounds, is expected to win final parliamentary approval in the coming months.

The government first unveiled plans for such a ban in July 2013, but was criticised at the time for not going further and imposing a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

In January senior doctors and anti-alcohol campaigners accused ministers of caving in to lobbying from the drinks industry over a minimum unit price. The industry says a minimum unit price would not tackle the causes of alcohol abuse. ($1 = 0.6123 British pounds) (Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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