UK Government to restrict alcohol deals

Posted by Editorial on 4th December 2008

A ban on ‘all you can drink’ promotions in pubs and bars and on certain supermarket discounts are among a range of new measures announced today by British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Health Secretary Alan Johnson.Following an independent review, which reportedly discovered a number of retailers not abiding by their own voluntary standards for responsible selling and marketing of alcohol, the government intends to introduce a new mandatory code of practice to target “the most irresponsible retail practices”. This will set out compulsory licensing conditions for all alcohol retailers and will give licensing authorities new powers to clampdown on specific problems in their areas. Licensing authorities will also be able to impose these new powers on several premises at once.

The government will shortly consult on a range of compulsory conditions including:
* banning offers like ‘all you can drink for £10’
* outlawing pubs and bars offering promotions to certain groups, such as women only
* ensuring that customers in supermarkets are not required to buy very large amounts of a product to take advantage of price discounts
* ensuring staff selling alcohol are properly trained
* requiring that consumers are able to see unit content of all alcohol when they buy it
* requiring bars and pubs to have the minimum sized glasses available for customers who want them.

“I don’t want to stop the vast majority of people who enjoy alcohol and drink responsibly from doing so but we all face a cost from alcohol-related disorder and I have a duty to crack down on irresponsible promotions that can fuel excessive drinking and lead people into crime and disorder,” Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, suggested. “That’s why I will impose new standards on the alcohol industry that everyone will have to meet with tough penalties if they break the rules.”

The British Retail Consortium has indicated disappointment with the possible conditions, believing they penalise responsible drinkers while failing to tackle the real problem – the ingrained drinking culture in society. “Denying hard-pressed customers access to value is wrong. We don’t want social disorder either but controls on price and promotions will not tackle alcohol abuse. They just penalise millions of customers who drink perfectly responsibly,” BRC Director General, Stephen Robertson, said. “If there were a simple link between irresponsible consumption and cost, sources of high priced alcohol such as pubs and clubs would not be the sources of insobriety they often are. Targeting multi-packs is perverse. These are precisely the way families buy alcohol to take home. They are not bought by young people on a night out.”

“The way to make a real difference is by changing the culture around alcohol. Already retailers are voluntarily rolling out on-pack unit labelling. We will continue to lead the way in giving customers the information they need to drink sensibly.”

Governments worldwide have been focussing on new legislation to tackle binge drinking this year, as concerns about the growing impact of binge drinking on health and society escalate. In Australia, the major change in legislation has been the hike in taxes on ready-to-drink alcoholic products – alcopops.