The Morning Advertiser reports (slightly late) on CAMRA’s U-turn over minimum alcohol pricing, mentioning the proposer of the motion (otherwise known as Tandleman) by name. Jonathan Mail, head of public affairs at CAMRA, told the paper “We’re in the process of formulating a new position on below-cost alcohol sales”.
While it’s easy to declare yourself against below-cost selling, in practice it’s very hard to define, as I explained here. Any attempt to set a notional “cost of production” is in effect minimum pricing by the back door, and to subject supplier invoicing to audit would be unbelievably bureaucratic and time-consuming. The only robust and intellectually credible position is to define cost simply as duty and the VAT on duty.
It’s also a complete myth - although a convenient one for those who want to point the finger at the evil supermarkets - that below-cost selling occurs to any significant extent anyway, as it would simply be bad business. It makes no sense whatsoever for supermarkets to sell any substantial proportion of products at a loss, although of course they drive a hard bargain with their suppliers. Loss-leading only works on products such as milk and bread which represent a small proportion of overall spend and which can be easily compared between different retailers.