Govt set to overhaul alcohol sales rules

Gov't set to overhaul alcohol sales rules

A ban on below-cost sales of alcohol and tougher licensing rules could become law by autumn 2011 at the latest, under plans set out by the UK's Coalition Government.

Ministers plan to include an "overhaul" of the current licensing rules in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which is expected to become law by November 2011 at the latest.

A ban on below-cost sales of alcohol could also be included in the Bill, although the measure might be brought in earlier if the Government and drinks industry can reach agreement without the need for legislation.

The proposals, which are set out in a timetable published today (14 July) by the Home Office, are further evidence that the Coalition intends to act swiftly to reduce alcohol-related harm by restricting supply.

Home Office officials will work with the Treasury and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to "develop options" for alcohol taxation and pricing.

This work is to be complete by April 2011, says the Home Office document. Changes to alcohol taxation could be introduced in time for the UK's new financial year, beginning in May 2011, it says.

"We have adopted a cautious view of the timescales for delivering all legislative measures due to the unpredictability of pressures on Parliamentary time," it adds.

Government minister Anne Milton said last week that the Government "will take action on pricing".

However, she added: "You cannot responsibly reduce alcohol harm by tackling supply alone, we must do something about demand as well. We are looking actively at the question of motivation."

The UK drinks industry is split on how to define a ban on below-cost sales.

For just-drinks' in-depth analysis of the new UK Government's alcohol policy, click here.