The consultation, brought forward by the Home Office this morning, asks for views on a raft of measures designed to cut alcohol consumption and crime, which include setting a minimum price of 45p per unit for alcohol, placing a ban on multi-buy promotions and cutting red tape for responsible businesses. It also asks for a review of the mandatory licensing conditions.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said she was pleased the Government had associated responsible drinking with pubs and welcomed a review of the mandatory code as long as it would not result in 'onerous' regulation for pubs.
“There are positive signs in the Government’s approach to reducing the red tape burden," she said. "I welcome the decision to consult on the current requirement to advertise licensing applications in a newspaper. This is a proposal which is costly and unnecessary and something which the BBPA has taken a lead to remove. We are also pleased that extending the number of Temporary Events Notices per premises is being considered.
“On multi-buy promotions, this would affect beer more than any other drinks as beer is the most common type of drink sold in this way. However, if the Government is seeking to introduce minimum pricing, it is difficult to see why they feel the need for this."
Minimum alcohol pricing
Setting a minimum price for alcohol has drawn the most controversy since the idea was suggested earlier this year.
Simmonds said the BBPA believed that alcohol should be priced in a socially responsible way, but suggested that a ban on below-cost selling for alcohol might have been more effective.
“There are concerns that minimum pricing would penalise a sensible majority of people who drink in moderation," she said. "The BBPA has always supported a ban on below-cost selling, and we would have been happy to work with the Government in looking at ways to achieve this."
The Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers warned the Government that setting a minimum price per alcohol unit was not a 'silver bullet' and agreed with the BBPA in that the attention should be on tackling low pricing in supermarkets.
“We are disappointed that the consultation does not go further in this area and get a grip on bulk sales, price led advertising and in-store promotions. There is nothing here which will stop supermarkets continuing to sell wholesale quantities of alcohol to the public at prices some pubs cannot buy it," said Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director of the ALMR.
"Worse, the prospect of additional costs and controls on pubs and bars is clearly flagged. We have an open-ended question asking what more can be done which can only result in pubs, clubs and bars signing a further a blank cheque in operating costs.
"What we need is not only measures to make it more expensive to drink at home, but also action to remove the horrendous regulatory and tax burdens which are crippling the pub and literally pricing many out of the market."
Policing Minister Damian Green said the measures were not about stopping responsible drinking, but were designed to stop alcohol-related crime and disorder in communities.
He said: "The evidence is clear - the availability of cheap alcohol contributes to harmful levels of drinking. It can't be right that it is possible to purchase a can of beer for as little as 20p.
"We have already introduced early morning restriction orders to curb alcohol sales, a late night levy to ensure those selling alcohol help pay towards the costs of policing and we have made it easier for local authorities to tackle problematic licensed premises."