Quaker activists have given a cautious backing to government plans to crack down on cheap alcohol. But they have warned them that their plans do not go far enough and that they must be realistic about the scale of the problem.
The new coalition government has promised to ban the sale of alcohol below ‘cost price’ – the sum the retailer has already paid for it. The ban would apply to England and Wales and would reflect similar legislation already introduced by the Scottish Parliament.
The ban would be "certainly a step in the right direction", according to Helena Chambers of Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs (QAAD).
The proposal could lead to an end to ‘happy hours’ in pubs and ‘three-for-two’ offers in supermarkets. It follows claims by the police that cheap alcohol is encouraging binge drinking and crime.
But Chambers told the Quaker magazine The Friend that she wanted ministers to go further and introduce minimum pricing on alcohol. She said that this would have a “more consistent effect”. The Scottish Parliament has debated this possibility but has not reached agreement.
Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium, whose members include businesses involved in the alcohol trade, said that ‘cost price’ would be difficult for the law to define. He added: "Irresponsible alcohol consumption is not about price. It’s a cultural issue."
Chambers responded by linking price with culture, suggesting that good legislation on pricing could "send out the right health message".
The government has also promised a review of alcohol taxation. QAAD say that they will be watching out for progress.
British Quakers, known more formally as the Religious Society of Friends, will hold their Yearly Meeting in London this weekend.
They are planning to focus on political engagement, as well as on agreeing steps to implement the decision they made last year to carry out same-sex marriages on the same basis as mixed-sex marriages.