Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

All-you-can-drink pub offers facing ban

Young people give their views on the proposals

"All-you-can-drink" promotions could be banned and compulsory identity checks introduced under government proposals to crack down on alcohol abuse.

If the plans for England and Wales are approved, bars will also not be able to hold speed-drinking competitions.

Retailers or publicans in breach of the code could be fined or jailed.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said there was a "duty to act". The Tories said they would give councils more powers to tackle "problem" bars and clubs.

It is estimated that alcohol abuse kills 40,000 people in England and Wales every year, with the annual cost of drink-related crime and disorder in the UK as a whole put at between £8bn and £13bn.

'Irresponsible'

If the government's proposals receive parliamentary approval, they will form a new mandatory code for retailers.

The key points of the parties' proposals are:

LABOUR

  • Bar staff and retailers required to demand proof of age of anyone who looks under 18

  • Ban "irresponsible" promotions such as all-you-can-drink offers and speed-drinking contests and ensure free tap water available
  • Pubs having to make small measures of beers, wines and spirits available
  • CONSERVATIVES

  • Giving councils the power to charge levy on premises causing problems late at night, including off-licences open after 10.30pm and pubs open after midnight
  • Duty increase on problem drinks, such as some very strong beers or alcopops
  • Permanently shutting down pubs which repeatedly break the rules

  • The Liberal Democrats have already outlined policies to curb excessive drinking, including stopping "irresponsible" promotions by setting a minimum price for alcohol

    The party also advocates a "one-strike-and-you're-out" policy, where shops would be fined and lose their licence the first time they are caught selling alcohol to children.

    'Magic bullet'

    Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had not ruled out the possibility of using pricing measures to make alcohol less easily available, but such a move was not "a magic bullet".

    "We don't want to ensure that people... on good incomes can just carry on as normal, but responsible drinkers on low incomes are hit."

    But Mr Johnson said a minority of outlets ran irresponsible promotions: "These practices have a real impact on society, not to mention the lives of those who just want to enjoy a good night out."

    CASE STUDY
    Chambers Bar, Darlington
    Barbara Vowles, manager of Chambers, Darlington

    We have a normal pub and a nightclub. We did have a 69p drink promotion on Thursday nights but we have put it up to £1 for some bottles of beer, vodka and mixer.

    I did it to make a stand, to highlight the issue. Other places in Darlington were doing it and we had to fight for customers.

    I have been in the pub trade for 32 years and it is getting harder. We are competing with the supermarkets - most of us buy our alcohol from the supermarkets so we are still making money despite the cheap prices.

    Pubs are closing down all the time - the recession and the smoking ban have not helped.

    I would be in favour of a minimum price for alcohol as it would create a level playing field and people would then come into a pub for the atmosphere or music, not just because it sold the cheapest booze.

    For the Conservatives, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said he was "concerned" about the strength of many drinks on the market and that there would be a higher duty placed on these.

    This, Mr Grayling said, would encourage manufacturers to change, although some "niche products", such as some specialist ciders made by small breweries, would not be affected.

    "The problem with minimum pricing is that it affects people who are in no way involved in anti-social behaviour," he said.

    "It puts up the price of a bottle of sherry, a bottle of wine, so responsible drinkers will end up paying more."

    Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "Booze Britain is ruining lives and costing the country billions, but Labour has not only failed to tackle alcohol misuse, it has allowed an epidemic of drink-fuelled crime and illness to take hold.

    "Now the government is ignoring its own expensive advice and experts, who say the best way to reduce alcohol misuse is to stop booze being sold at pocket money prices."

    In Scotland, the government is pushing for a minimum price for alcohol to tackle drink-related problems.

    Laws requiring young people to prove their age were introduced in the country last year.

    'Just tinkering'

    The British Beer and Pub Association said it had been asking for legislation to crack down on irresponsible promotions in both pubs and supermarkets.

    But spokesman Mark Hastings told the BBC: "What with 70% of all alcohol sold through supermarkets and widespread concern about their promotional prices, the measures announced by the Home Office seem lopsided and unbalanced."

    The British Medical Association welcomed tougher rules on promotions as did the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

    Glass of wine showing measures of units and cl

    Commander Simon O'Brien, from Acpo, said a mandatory code for premises could "help people moderate their alcohol intake", but he added: "The reality is that enforcement is only one avenue to bring about change in attitudes and behaviour."

    Don Shenker, from campaign group Alcohol Concern, told the BBC the proposals would not prevent people being able to "pre-load" with alcohol from supermarkets, and would not stop pubs and clubs selling a pint of lager for under £1.

    "It is just tinkering with the price issue rather than decisive action," he said. "We need a minimum price per unit of alcohol which will affect pubs, clubs, off-licences and supermarkets."

    Earlier this month, a Commons health select committee report estimated that a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol would prevent 3,000 deaths a year.



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