Whether or not we actually live in a nanny state is a debatable point. But, those who believe that our government over protects us in many respects would surely vote the title of “Super Nanny” to the Department of Health.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has responded to two of the department’s public consultations in recent weeks. I wrote in this column in September about our opposition to DoH proposals such as taking tobacco off display in retail and banning the sale of packs of 10 cigarettes.

Since then, the department has moved the debate on to the subject of alcohol. It is suggesting the implementation of either a mandatory code of practice, or further legislation, for retailers who sell alcohol, as well as the on trade.

FWD responded in October to its Safe, Sensible and Social consultation document that contained these proposals, pointing out it would merely duplicate existing laws. We feel strongly that current legislation, particularly the licensing laws, are sufficient. Of course, we endorse the Government’s intention to curb ‘binge drinking’ and alcohol-related disorder. We also support promotion of sensible and informed drinking habits to reduce alcohol related accidents and illnesses.

But, our belief is that the off trade, in the main, acts very responsibly in regard to its sales of alcohol. However, we have already voiced our concern to the Prime Minister over one reprehensible practice in retail – that of the below cost selling of alcohol by the major supermarkets.

Earlier this year we called on him to stop the practice of loss leading promotions in alcoholic products through a voluntary code of practice covering the whole drinks industry. The Government’s answer was that this might breach competition law. But, the FWD maintains that a voluntary agreement to cease below cost selling of alcohol in the UK should not be beyond the wit of Government to devise.

‘Half price’ and ‘three for two’ offers, typical of the multiple trade, could be seen as irresponsible practice that leads to excessive drinking by many consumers. When we first raised this issue, the major retailers tended to focus these activities on key trading times such as Christmas and football events. However, we have subsequently seen this kind of supermarket behaviour proliferating during normal trading periods.

The FWD renewed its call for a ban on these kinds of offers in its latest response to the DoH.

So let us hope that Nanny really does know best and does something about it.

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