MP attacks Tesco over binge drinking

Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy was yesterday branded the “godfather of British binge drinking” in the House of Commons.

Labour MP John Grogan criticised Tesco’s chief executive for heavy discounting of alcohol in the supermarket chain.

Mr Grogan, who is chair of the all-party beer group and is not noted for his criticisms of the pub trade, said he had become concerned with the low prices Tesco and other supermarkets charge for alcohol.

He told MPs: “It is with regret I say this, but I do really want to charge Terence Leahy, the boss of Tesco, as being the godfather of British binge drinking.”

He said Tesco sells alcohol below cost price “all the time”, pointing to research by the Competition Commission that Tesco under-priced beer and lager by £15.1 million during last summer’s World Cup.

Mr Grogan continued: “We are talking about selling alcohol below the cost of water. This isn’t baked beans. There has to be a little bit of a different attitude.”

He called on the big supermarket bosses to “stop putting their heads in the sand” and address the issue.

Mr Grogan said: “We want some leadership from these very powerful individuals.”

Labour MP Eric Illsley said supermarkets should follow the example of the pub trade and accept a ban on “irresponsible promotions”.

Tesco has denied claims it irresponsibly promotes cheap alcohol to customers.

A Tesco spokesman said: “The vast majority of alcohol bought at Tesco forms part of the weekly family shop.

“We also know people tend to stock up on beers and wines for home use during promotional periods and consequently buy less at other times.”

Opening the debate in the Commons, health minister Ben Bradshaw said the government was “concerned” about alcohol promotions.

Ministers have already ordered an independent review to look into the relationship between pricing and health problems, which will report in the summer.

Mr Bradshaw said he was prepared to change the law in light of the findings.

Last month, the prime minister met with supermarket bosses and others from the drinks industry for an alcohol summit. It concluded a cultural change was necessary as well as more personal responsibility.