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Alcohol sales below cost price axed

Supermarkets and off-licences will be banned from selling alcohol below cost price, the Government has confirmed.

Stores will be blocked from using booze as a "loss leader" as ministers try to cut crime and health problems linked to binge drinking.

The move will be welcomed by senior police officers, health campaigners and the pub industry.

Some retailers are already gearing up to sell masses of alcohol at bargain prices during the football World Cup after the UK's five biggest supermarkets sold more than £38 million of booze below cost during the 2006 tournament.

A review of alcohol taxation and pricing will aim to tackle drink-related ills without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers and businesses.

The below-cost booze ban was contained in both Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos ahead of the General Election and the move was confirmed in a document setting out more detailed plans of the coalition Government.

The Government said it will "overhaul" the Licensing Act to give police and councils more power to tackle pubs and clubs that become magnets for trouble and shops and bars who persistently sell alcohol to children will be shut down, while the maximum fine for underage sales will be doubled to £20,000.

The proposals appear to go further than comments made by Home Secretary Theresa May to the Police Federation annual conference on Wednesday when she revealed the Government has ordered a wholesale review of Britain's 24-hour licensing laws, but said she did not want to prejudge the outcome.

Mrs May opposed the 2003 Licensing Act when it was introduced by the previous administration and said it has led to "problems on the streets".

A Government spokeswoman said: "The Government plans to overhaul the existing licensing regime, including 24-hour licensing, to tackle the drink-fuelled violence and disorder which is blighting many of our communities."

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