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No minimum alcohol price in Queen's Speech

LONDON - Ministers have rejected proposals to introduce a minimum price for alcohol in the Queen's Speech following concerns that it could alienate voters in the recession, but there will be curbs on drinks promotions.

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Supermarkets and pubs will be banned from offering promotions that encourage excessive drinking including two-for-one offers, happy hours and free drinks for women -- but ministers have stopped short at introducing a minimum price for alcohol.

Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, said that legislation to prevent binge drinking would target promotions in pubs, off-licenses and supermarkets after voluntary codes had failed to work.

Smith said: "We will bring forward proposals for mandatory conditions on everybody to stop the most irresponsible promotions."

The Government is concerned that increasing the costs of drinking and smoking dramatically during the economic downturn could anger voters.

Ministers have ruled out setting a minimum price for drinks so supermarkets will still be able to offer cut price deals.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson is leading a campaign to reverse proposals to ban shops from displaying tobacco on the grounds that the measures would harm the profitability of small businesses during the recession.

Alan Johnson, the health secretary, had plans to introduce legislation which would ban big displays of cigarettes, but Mandelson's objections are understood to be hindering final preparations for the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.

The speech will set out the last full programme of Government legislation before the next general election, which must be held before June 2010.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats oppose the cigarette proposals, which would also ban tobacco vending machines.

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