Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Cheap drinks promotions face ban

Cheap drinks promotion
Drinks promotions are expected to be targeted in the bill

"All you can drink" promotions in pubs and bars would be banned under government plans in the Queen's Speech.

Anyone selling alcohol would also have to sign up to a compulsory code of conduct, after a review found a voluntary code had not worked.

Bars would have to offer small wine glasses and "multi-pack" supermarket discounts on alcohol would end.

The policing and crime bill would also tighten laws on lap dancing clubs, prostitution and sex offenders.

The bill largely applies to England and Wales, although parts will extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

'Irresponsible practices'

The government has been consulting on whether alcohol retailers - including private members' clubs - should have to sign up to a mandatory code of conduct.

It also asked researchers at Sheffield University to report on the effects of drinks promotions and pricing on drinking.

I don't want to stop the vast majority of people who enjoy alcohol and drink responsibly from doing so
Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary

That report found that "many retailers are not abiding by their own voluntary standards for responsible selling and marketing of alcohol".

The bill will include plans for a mandatory code to target "the most irresponsible retail practices".

Among moves that will be consulted on are a ban on "all you can drink for 10" and "women drink for free"-style offers, supermarket deals when people "buy very large amounts" of alcohol and that drinks should detail how many units of alcohol they contain.

Alcohol disorder

The government says 3m will be made available to deal with drink-related problems in 190 areas and 1.5m to some areas to deal with underage sales and confiscating alcohol from underage drinkers.

It also plans to increase the maximum fine issued for being caught drinking in controlled areas from 500 to 2,500 and bring in a new offence of "persistently possessing alcohol in a public place" which would apply to under 18s.

And the current "three strikes" within three months rule for shopkeepers caught selling alcohol to underage drinkers would be changed to two strikes.

Targeting multi-packs is perverse. These are precisely the way families buy alcohol to take home
Stephen Robertson
British Retail Consortium

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she did not want to stop "the vast majority of people who enjoy alcohol and drink responsibly from doing so".

But she said: "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."

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said he would not rule out taking action on "very cheap alcohol", like that sold below cost price but said more work was needed to make sure it was "fair".

British Retail Consortium boss Stephen Robertson warned that banning discounts on multi-packs would hit low-income families.

He said: "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."

But Alcohol Concern said any compulsory code of conduct had to tackle cheap alcohol. Its chief executive Don Shenker said: "The University of Sheffield report now provides overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence that cheap alcohol is the single biggest driver of alcohol harms.

"We can't therefore afford any further delay in ending irresponsible alcohol pricing right across the board."

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, welcomed many of the measures but said "even tougher action" was needed to tackle a "binge drinking culture".


Dr Vivienne Nathanson, BMA Head of Science and Ethics, said: "The evidence demonstrates that in order to address the major drivers of alcohol consumption, governments need to focus on price and availability. Today's proposals will only scratch the surface."

In other proposals in the bill, lap dance clubs may be reclassified as "sex encounter" venues under licensing laws, making it easier for local councils to oppose them.

And it could become a crime to pay for sex with prostitutes who are controlled by pimps.

The bill aims to "protect vulnerable members of our society, including women and children" as well as stopping crime "taking root in our communities" and increasing police accountability.

The government has been consulting on whether licensing laws need tightening for lap-dancing clubs, which are currently in the same licensing category as pubs and cafes.

The home secretary has also previously announced plans to make it a crime in England and Wales to pay for sex with women who have been trafficked.

Men who knowingly pay could be charged with rape and kerb crawlers could face prosecution for a first offence.

Among other measures in the bill are allowing people to elect representatives to police authorities, making it easier to seize criminal assets to tackle organised crime and "strengthening arrangements around sex offender prevention orders and foreign travel orders".

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