A minimum price on alcohol sold in supermarkets will not be introduced during the economic downturn, UK home secretary Jacqui Smith has said.

Smith's comments came during a Parliamentary debate on alcohol-related crime in the UK House of Commons yesterday (15 December).

In response to a call from Keith Vaz MP for a "floor price" on alcohol sold in supermarkets, Smith said that "given the current economic climate in particular, we do not intend at this moment to introduce this sort of minimum price".

Drinks industry officials reacted positively to the news, which comes only two weeks after the government announced plans to introduce a mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers.  

Gavin Partington, spokesperson for the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, told just-drinks today: "The idea of forcing people to pay more when everyone is feeling the pinch is wrong".

Another senior industry source familiar with the situation told just-drinks that ministers are understood to have "shelved" minimum prices for the time being.

Future legislation remains a possibility, however, as Smith confirmed yesterday. She told MPs: "We certainly have not closed off that option for the future, and the health secretary is already undertaking more work into the impact and consequences of that particular form of action".

Industry sources expect the Scottish Executive to push ahead with plans for minimum pricing in Scotland next year.

Not all retailers and drinks firms have opposed the idea of a blanket minimum drinks price. One source close to Tesco told just-drinks recently that the supermarket giant might not reject such a move, if implemented across the board.