The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has come out against the Government's planned mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers.

The WSTA said today (13 August) that the code currently being proposed will add "unnecessary bureaucracy" to businesses, the cost of which will ultimately be met by consumers.

The opposition comes as the UK Home Office nears the end of a consultation on the code, which forms a key part of the Government's plan to tackle excess drinking.

WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles said it has approached the consultation constructively from the start but, while it shares the Government's ambition to tackle the minority of irresponsible businesses and consumers, it believes the code in its current form is unlikely to have the desired objective of reducing alcohol disorder.

"Instead of encouraging successful partnership working, which has delivered the Challenge 25 and Community Alcohol Partnerships initiatives to reduce underage sales, we fear the code is going to punish the majority of responsible businesses and consumers. It's time for a rethink," Beadle said.

In its submission to the Government's consultation, the WSTA has called for targeted policies to address problem drinkers, proper enforcement of the existing laws and a local partnership approach to tackle problem areas.

The group has also urged officials to abandon a provision enabling local authorities to curb promotional offers on multiple quantities of beers, wines and spirits, pointing out that in the case of wine, for example, it would primarily affect fine wine merchants rather than the problem drinkers ministers say they wish to tackle.

The WSTA response comes amid newspaper reports that Devon and Cornwall police have begun a clampdown on binge-drinking following a series of incidents and deaths in the region.

Last month, the British Beer and Pub Association declared itself against a mandatory code of practice for the on-trade.