Mixed reaction to Act reform

06 August, 2010

There has been a mixed response from the drinks industry to the government consultation on proposals to reform the Licensing Act, including the ban on below-cost sales planned for autumn.

Diageo broadly welcomed the consultation but said it favoured tough action against licensees who break the law over a ban on below-cost selling to beat binge drinking.

But the Association of Convenience Stores warned that plans to give local residents and the police greater influence over licensing decisions would cause problems for the retail trade.

The government has also said there will be tougher penalties for selling to children.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The benefits promised by the 24-hour drinking café culture have failed to ­materialise and in its place we have seen an increase in the number of alcohol-related incidents and drink-fuelled crime and disorder.”?Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, said the group backed “the opportunity for local authorities to find the right solutions for their local communities”.

He added: “We believe measures suggested by the Home Secretary, such as taking tough action against those premises that break the law, are a much more effective way of tackling alcohol problems than a pricing policy, such as a ban on below-cost selling, which will impact everyone.”?The ACS said the Home Office proposals were “poorly conceived”. The consultation proposes a “significant erosion of licence holders’ rights”, it said.

Chief executive James Lowman said: “We will be strongly advising ministers that these proposals go far beyond a rebalancing of the Act and would hand absolute power to local authorities, residents groups and police, while businesses would lose even basic rights of appeal.

“Ministers are ignoring the fact that councils, police and residents can make bad decisions, or that they may act on prejudices rather than evidence.

“Safeguards for business are vital and are required to ensure effective partnership-based solutions to community problems can be achieved.

“Ministers have not shown how the proposals would lead to better results than those already seen in communities across the country.”?Wine & Spirit Trade Association spokesman Gavin Partington said: “It’s worth remembering local authorities and police already have substantial powers to refuse and remove licences from problem premises. We hope any changes in this area focus on tackling problem drinkers and premises, and don’t add unnecessary costs and burdens to the vast majority of responsible consumers and businesses.”

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