Parties launch plans for curbing binge drinking

“Irresponsible” booze promotions are set to be banned by the Government and the Tories want to place extra taxes on problem drinks, as both parties attempt to curb binge drinking.

Free tap water and smaller quantities of alcohol for customers to choose are also part of a proposed Government code for sellers of booze.

The code also lays out penalties, including removal of licences or even jail sentences, for pub and club owners who breach the conditions.

Meanwhile a tax on shops selling alcohol after 10.30pm to pay for additional policing costs and a ban on supermarkets selling alcohol below cost price are part of Conservative plans to crack down on binge drinking.

If Parliament approves the Government plan its requirements will become mandatory for retailers.

The code was published today by Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

He said: “Alcohol-related crime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and while the vast majority of retailers are responsible, a minority continue to run irresponsible promotions which fuel the excessive drinking that leads alcohol-related crime and disorder.

“These practices have a real impact on society not to mention the lives of those who just want to enjoy a good night out.”

His political opposite Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “It’s time we took back control of our town and city centres on a Friday and Saturday night, and turned them back into places where people can have a good night out without the fear of being caught up in a culture of binge drinking and anti-social behaviour.”

Newspapers reported that he was expected to add: “We need to scrap the Government’s late night licensing regime, give local people back powers over the number of licensed premises in their areas, and introduce charges for late night licences to pay for better policing.

“We can’t go on with the binge drinking culture that has built up under Labour.”

Commander Simon O’Brien, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “A mandatory code that cuts down the irresponsible sale and consumption of alcohol is a welcome step.

“Up and down the country officers, along with partner agencies, are working hard to make streets, pubs and clubs safer. But the reality is that enforcement is only one avenue to bring about change in attitudes and behaviour.

“Licensees and those working in bars and clubs are legally responsible to use due diligence at their doors to stop already intoxicated people from entering premises.

“They are also duty-bound to refuse to serve intoxicated people.

“We expect pubs and clubs to trade responsibly. Steps to ensure that tap water is available freely, and that drinks are available in smaller measures, can help people moderate their alcohol intake.

“These codes and other effective interventions will all help to tackle some of the problems associated with the problematic sale and consumption of alcohol by a few and will assist in making our towns and city centres safer.”

The 24-hour drinking law introduced by the 2003 Licensing Act has been widely criticised.

In November delegates at a police conference on tackling alcohol-fuelled night-time violence heard that the law should be reversed.

Individual constables have also slammed the controversial drinking law.

Mike Craik, Chief Constable of Northumbria Constabulary, said: “What 24-hour licensing has done is to give us more problems at three, four and five in the morning.

“Every force, certainly every force with a big town centre, is experiencing similar problems.”

Speaking in 2008 Andy Trotter, now Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, said: “The new laws may have brought an end to the 11pm rush but the downside is that police forces now have to deploy large numbers of officers through the night – sometimes to deal with extremely violent incidents – which means fewer resources are available for normal policing during the day.”

In 2008 the Local Government Association published a survey showing nearly one in three NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) had reported an increase in alcohol-related incidents since the 2003 Licensing Act.

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