Time's Up For Irresponsible Drink Deals

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A ban on 'all you can drink' promotions in pubs and bars is among a range of new measures announced today by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Health Secretary Alan Johnson, supported by a new pound 4.5 million crackdown on alcohol fuelled crime and disorder.

Following an independent review, which found that many retailers are not abiding by their own voluntary standards for responsible selling and marketing of alcohol, The Government now 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 pound 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; and

- requiring bars and pubs to have the minimum sized glasses available for customers who want them.

Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships are being awarded a ?3 million cash injection to target enforcement activities on specific alcohol-related problems in 190 areas across all police forces. In addition, ?1.5 million will be given to a number of priority areas to strengthen their ability to tackle underage sales, confiscate alcohol from under 18s and run communications campaigns to tell people what action is being taken to successfully reduce alcohol related crime and disorder in their local area.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "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. 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.


"There is no simple solution to tackling this problem - we all have a responsibility to tackle the binge drinking culture. I look forward to seeing the results of our ?4.5 million crackdown on alcohol fuelled crime and disorder."

The Government undertook a public consultation on a mandatory code in July this year. Over 90 per cent of approximately 2,000 respondents supported a mandatory code.

The Government also commissioned an independent review of the effects of price and promotion on alcohol-related harm. These reports are published today. The review findings suggest that changes to how alcohol is priced and promoted could deliver reductions in health harms, crime and absenteeism from work. However, the ScHARR review is a very detailed study examining a wide range of policy options. The Government needs to evaluate these before deciding whether or not to act in this area. Details of how this will be done will follow in due course.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "The majority of people who drink enjoy alcohol sensibly, but we are determined to take action to reduce the health and social harms caused by those who don't. We have already invested ?10 million in the 'Know Your Limits' campaign which launched in May this year and arms people with the facts about what a unit of alcohol is, how many units are in the drinks they consume, and a guide to safe levels of consumption.

"We now have the evidence and public support to take decisive action to reduce harm from excessive drinking. Our consultation results suggest that people want to see Government tackle irresponsible promotions - we can't justify delaying action here while waiting for further analysis on changes to pricing.

"Low-cost alcohol is clearly linked to increased consumption and harm, so I'm not ruling out taking action on very cheap alcohol, such as alcohol sold below cost price. However, it would be wrong to make sweeping changes without taking account of all the options suggested by our new research. We need to do more work on this to make sure any action we take is appropriate, fair and effective."

Mike Craik, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead for Alcohol Licensing, said:

"ACPO welcomes the indication today that the Government is looking at the introduction of a mandatory code of conduct for the licensing industry. For too long, some retailers have been putting profits before responsibility and cutting the price of alcohol until it is cheaper than water.

"There is no doubt that irresponsible drinking leads to alcohol-fuelled violence and suggestions that enforcement alone can provide an answer ignore the obvious. Last year, nearly one fifth of all violent incidents took place in or around pubs and clubs at a cost of ?7.3 billion to the UK. While there are many who trade responsibly, there are also, as the KPMG study released earlier this year showed, a great many who do not. So the industry has an important part to play in helping to reduce the excessive drinking that leads to alcohol-fuelled disorder on our streets.

"ACPO has consistently called for end-to-end solutions bringing together the police, local authorities, industry, parents and all those in each neighbourhood who share an interest in tackling alcohol related crime and disorder. We look forward to working with Government and partners on proposals to meet this aim."

Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "A mandatory code of practice for licensed retailers is a very welcome development in the Government's alcohol policy. Self-regulation from the drinks industry has clearly protected irresponsible licensees, rather than customers and we believe a mandatory code is crucial in tackling poorly run pubs, clubs and off-licenses. Government must ensure however that the new code urgently addresses the issue of irresponsible price promotions in both the on- and off-trade in order to reduce harmful drinking and avoid preventable deaths."

David Poley, chief executive of Portman Group, the social responsibility organisation for drinks producers, said: "Retailers offering consumers incentives to drink excessively and rapidly can cause harm. This mandatory code would strengthen the existing licensing laws while allowing effective producer self-regulation to flourish. It will stamp out irresponsible promotions without making everyone pay more for a drink. The funding boost for alcohol enforcement activity is to be applauded. We encourage police forces to use the raft of powers at their disposal for tackling alcohol-related disorder. Greater police activity, better education and responsible industry actions will make a bigger dent in our drinking culture."