Tesco boss is godfather of binge drinking, says MP

A YORKSHIRE MP has sparked a war of words with Britain's biggest retailer after dubbing Tesco's chief executive the "godfather of British binge drinking".

John Grogan, MP for Selby and chairman of the all-party beer group, singled out Tesco boss Sir Terence Leahy for criticism during a Commons debate on the availability of cheap alcohol.

But the supermarket giant hit back angrily last night, dismissing the Labour MP's comments as wrong and offensive.

Supermarket chiefs met Prime Minister Gordon Brown for an "alcohol summit" a week ago amid claims that supermarket promotions mean it could be cheaper to buy alcohol than water.

Mr Grogan said: "It is with regret I say this, but I do really want to charge (Sir) Terence Leahy, the boss of Tesco, as being the godfather of British binge drinking."

He added: "Pubs, clubs, the brewers themselves have all recognised that they have to address this issue but Sir Terence Leahy still hasn't."

A Tesco spokesman said Mr Grogan's comments were "as offensive as they are inaccurate".

"Alcohol abuse is of course a serious concern to us all and Tesco is playing a leading role in the efforts made by retailers to combat it. The vast majority of alcohol bought at Tesco forms part of the weekly shop and it is insulting and wrong to assert that families looking for value when they buy beer or wine are the cause of a serious social problem," the spokesman added.

Ministers have ordered a review, to report next summer, into the relationship between pricing and promotion of alcohol and the harm to health.

Shane Frith, director of liberal think-tank Progressive Vision, said: "It beggars belief that Labour MPs seem to want supermarkets to raise their prices.

"How much you drink and what you are willing to pay for it is a matter for individuals – not for politicians.

"This is typical of the miserly, nitpicking, interfering, attitude of the Government."