UK: Government waters down mandatory code on alcohol sales
The UK Government is slimming down its proposal to introduce a mandatory code of practice for alcoholic drinks sales, just-drinks can confirm.
Plans to give local authorities extra "discretionary powers" to impose stricter rules on sales and promotions are to be scrapped, a UK Home Office spokesperson confirmed to just-drinks today (15 October).
The move has been welcomed by the drinks industry.
As previously proposed, the code included a nine-point mandatory element for all retailers and on-trade outlets, as well as tougher sanctions to be used by local authorities as and when they saw fit.
Extra sanctions could have included measures such as a blanket ban on drinks promotions in a trouble "hotspot", regardless of whether all premises in the area were at fault.
Commenting on the decision to scrap the discretionary part of the code, a Home Office spokesperson said: "We recognise that this is a big change but, having regard to the concerns of stakeholders at our consultation events, we think it is right to respond quickly whilst we have this opportunity (as the Bill is being debated in Parliament)."
It is understood that a nine-point, country-wide mandatory code on sales and promotion of drinks will be kept. The content remains unclear and could still include some sanctions that were to become discretionary measures.
"On the remaining parts of the consultation, we are still considering the 7,000 responses received and will decide next steps on the content of the mandatory conditions shortly," said the Home Office.
It denied that ministers have weakened original proposals, adding that local authorities will be given powers to instigate a licensing review on a problem outlet.
A spokesperson said: "The locally applied conditions in the mandatory code will be replaced by new, tougher powers for local councillors and licensing officers making it quicker and easier for them to tackle problem premises by calling for a review to restrict or remove their licence without having to wait for the police or local residents to complain."
A spokesperson for trade body the Wine & Spirit Trade Association told just-drinks today: "We've always warned that the mandatory code threatened to add an unnecessary raft of rules and regulations, a view shared by police and local enforcement agencies during consultation, so we welcome any move by Government that responds to those concerns and focuses action on problem drinkers and premises, not the responsible majority."
The mandatory code, which is contained within the Government's Policing and Crime Bill, is a central plank in ministers' attempts to cut excess drinking and alcohol-related harm.
Drinks trade bodies, including the WSTA and British Beer and Pub Association, have criticised the use of a mandatory code, but there has been acceptance across the industry for more than a year that fresh restrictions on selling and promotions are likely.
Industry leaders do not expect the code to be implemented until next year, at the earliest.
Earlier this month, the Conservative Party, the official political opposition group in the UK, said it would "tear up" the Government's licensing laws should it win next year's General Election in the country.
The UK Government should freeze duty tax on wine and spirits in its upcoming annual Budget to prevent further job losses in the drinks industry, the Wine & Spirit Trade Association has said....
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