Door left open for ban on shop deals

22 January, 2010

Uncertainty surrounds the government’s plans for irresponsible drinks promotions in the off-trade after the publication of its proposals for a mandatory code for alcohol retailers this week.

The code initially bans promotions including all-you-can-drink and “dentist’s chairs” in pubs and clubs, but leaves the door open for a future ban on certain take-home promotions. The ban will apply to the on-trade from April 6.

An immediate ban on off-trade sales of alcohol at prices below duty and VAT has been ruled out. But in its response to the consultation on the proposed code, the Home Office acknowledges that “there was a desire for a consistent approach with all premises being treated equally”.

It adds: “Many pointed to the importance of ensuring that conditions applied to the off-trade as well, in an attempt to reduce the problem of pre-loading on alcohol before going out to on-trade premises to continue drinking.

“We are committed to tackling all irresponsible promotions and practices, and will take this feedback on board when drafting regulations and guidance.”?A report on the consultation prepared for the Home Office by the consultant Dia

ogue by Design acknowledged that “the wording of the conditions is considered imprecise and ambiguous by respondents of all types” with concern over the phrase “irresponsible promotions”.

Labour MP Brian Iddon tabled an early day motion calling for the initial on-trade?-targeted ban to be extended to the off-trade, and urging the government to “tackle deep discounting and below-cost selling in the off-trade”.

The British Beer & Pub Association describ?ed “the “pub-centric measures” as “lop-sided and unbalanced”.

The proposed code leaves out a raft of conditions on promotions – including localised powers to ban certain promotions – that had been mooted ahead of the consultation.

But it will impose a legal requirement on both off? and on-trade outlets to have an age verification policy in place and to check the ID of anyone thought to be under? 18, from October.

A power for councils to call for a review of a licence without a complaint from local residents or the police will come in on January 29.

The code’s publication coincided with a Tory crime manifesto that promised powers for councils to close permanently any shop selling alcohol to children, higher fines for under-age sales and a ban on supermarkets selling below cost.?

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