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Beer strength schemes may be unfair, says town’s MP

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: March 26, 2014

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BURTON’S MP has questioned schemes aiming to restrict the selling of ‘super-strength’ alcohol which have been rolled out in some towns and cities across the UK.

Andrew Griffiths has suggested the campaigns which seek to stop shops selling beer and cider which is above six per cent could be unfair on businesses, and has written to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to voice his concerns.

Suffolk Police has been a major supporter of the campaign, which has been adopted by many shops in Ipswich.

The force said since its introduction it had helped cut antisocial behaviour and street drinking in the town.

While welcoming any measures which help to tackle antisocial behaviour, Mr Griffiths, who is also chairman of the all-party parliamentary beer group, said he was concerned the schemes could impact heavily on brewers which rely on the sale of high-strength alcohol and also restrict consumer choice.

He is also seeking clarification the legality of such schemes, questioning whether they breach competition law.

In his letter to Vivienne Dews, chief executive of the OFT, Burton’s MP said: “I understand these schemes are intended to tackle problematic street drinking and alcohol-related antisocial behaviour, but while we would support that ambition, I am very concerned about their legality.

“Some are aimed at specific, named high-strength products which are sold particularly cheaply, whereas others effectively ban any beer or cider above 5.5 per cent or 6 per cent. Either approach would clearly distort competition between brewers, some of whom may be more reliant on higher strength beers than others.

“Clearly the market is distorted where some licensees comply while others do not. Even in Ipswich, which has a high-profile scheme, around a third of licensees have declined to comply with the ban.”

The scheme has also been adopted in Wakefield, while councillors in Plymouth are also considering whether to introduce it.

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