Minister of State at the Home Office, Jeremy Browne, made a statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday 17 July on the Government’s response to the alcohol strategy consultation.
The response sets out action in three areas.
1) targeted national action, both from government in taking action on cheap alcohol, and the alcohol industry in strengthening voluntary commitments to reduce alcohol-related harms.
Minimum unit pricing will remain a policy under consideration but will not be taken forward at this time as ‘there is not yet enough concrete evidence that its introduction would be effective in reducing harms associated with problem drinking, without penalising people who drink responsibly’.
Sales of alcohol below the level of alcohol duty plus value added tax will be banned. This will come in to effect in England and Wales no later than Spring 2014.
Multi-buy promotions will not be banned as ‘there remains a lack of convincing evidence that it would have a significant effect in reducing consumption’.
There will be changes to make current mandatory licensing conditions more effective enabling tougher action on irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs and promoting responsible drinking by raising customer awareness of availability of small servings.
Browne stated that the decision not to proceed with introducing minimum unit pricing at this stage provides the alcohol industry with an opportunity to build on the current achievements of the Public Health Responsibility Deal and improve education to promote safer drinking; reducing the availability of high strength products that cause the most harm for problem drinkers; and responsible marketing and product placement.
2) Facilitating local action
Browne acknowledged that targeted action by pubs and clubs has proved hugely effective in curbing irresponsible drinking, with Best Bar None, National Pubwatch, Purple Flag and Community Alcohol Partnerships demonstrating how much can be achieved by industry working in partnership at a local level. He stated that the government will build on this by identifying a number of high harm local alcohol action areas and working with them to strengthen local partnerships; improve enforcement; and increase good practice of what works locally – including how areas can make the most of available health data as part of local decision making.
3) Promoting growth, by freeing up responsible business and community groups from unnecessary red tape, whilst maintaining the integrity of the licensing system.
It will be quicker and easier for community groups and those wanting to sell small amounts of alcohol as part of a wider service to do so via the Community and Ancillary Sellers Notice.
The annual limit for the number of Temporary Event Notices that can apply to a particular premises from 12 to 15 and will free up businesses that provide late night refreshment by removing the requirement to have a licence where there is no need for one.
The requirement to renew personal licences every ten years will be abolished.
There also plans to consult on whether to abolish personal licences altogether.
Responding to the UK Government’s response to its Alcohol Strategy consultation, WSTA Chief Executive Miles Beale said:
“We welcome the Government’s recognition of the industry’s positive contribution to encouraging responsible drinking through the Public Health Responsibility Deal. It is only by working in partnership with industry that alcohol misuse in the UK can be tackled effectively. Pledges such as removing 1 billion units from the UK alcohol market are testament to this approach and to the industry’s commitment.”
“Now that the consultation is complete we look forward to working in partnership with Government and others, including the health community, on solutions that are proven and effective in tackling alcohol misuse - such as Community Alcohol Partnerships and better education and information campaigns.”