Retailers spared from curbs on multibuys and super-strength bans
The government has declared it has no plans to grant local licensing authorities the power to ban “super-strength” alcohol across stores in their areas.
It also has no plans to introduce a ban on multibuy promotions on alcohol in England and Wales after concluding it would not be an effective means of restricting consumption.
A select committee has conducted post-legislative scrutiny on the Licensing Act 2003 and made a series of recommendations to government.
It recommended that licensing officers should not be given the power to enforce blanket bans on beer and cider above a certain abv in their cities and towns, and the government said it agreed with the advice.
The committee did, however, encourage the government to introduce “legislation based on Part 1 of the Alcohol etc (Scotland) Act 2010 in England and Wales at the first available opportunity”.
That would mean a ban on multibuys, among other measures, but the government said it had no plans to follow Scotland’s lead in this area.
A multibuy ban has been in place in Scotland for years but a Public Health England review concluded it is ineffective and easily circumvented.
The report said Scottish households have simply been buying alcohol on more occasions but in smaller quantities.
NHS Scotland and the University of Glasgow believe it has curtailed alcohol sales, but various contrasting reports have shown little or no impact.
“Changing the current system or introducing different systems for community and commercial events would be undesirable and the government does not intend to introduce this division,” said the government.
The Association of Convenience Stores has been campaigning against a multibuy ban and was pleased by the government report, which was published this week.
Chief executive James Lowman said: “We welcome the government’s response, which recognises the importance of the existing provisions of the Licensing Act to tackle alcohol-related harm.
“The convenience sector has already taken steps to reduce alcohol harm in communities through robust age restriction policies, building relationships with local trading standards officers and partnership working with organisations such as Community Alcohol Partnerships and the Proof of Age Standards Scheme, and we will continue to work to ensure stores can sell alcohol responsibly.”
The government also said it has no intention of raising licensing fees in the immediate future, as many licensed businesses have already seen an increase in their business rates bills in 2017.
But the introduction of minimum unit pricing remains on the table, subject to the outcome of the legal case between the Scottish government and the Scotch Whisky Association and “evidence of the impact of the measure if introduced in Scotland”.