So far not so bad, Home Sec

By Andrew Pring

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcopop, Government, The queen

Pring: devil is in the detail
Pring: devil is in the detail
The Queen's speech revealed plans for a new restrictive code for pubs, but not the draconian crackdown we feared, says Andrew Pring.

It could have been a lot, lot worse. And, judging on past experience, it could still be a disaster in waiting. But on the face of it, the Government's well trailed and much vaunted crackdown on alcohol has turned out to be rather a measured and restrained set of plans that pose no major fears.

Given the popular pressure Government was under to tackle the still very real problems of social disorder, we all expected draconian steps. Total alcohol advertising bans, ludicrous labelling measures, the end of any promotional activity — none of us would have been surprised if the Queen had announced them on Wednesday. But no.

OK, a mandatory code is not something we wanted — but we knew that it was inevitable. And the steps it proposes are nothing that any self-respecting professional licensee should shun as he goes about his business.

It surely behoves an industry that wants to be recognised for its professsionalism that it should train its staff properly. How often, though, do we see a novice thrust behind a busy bar with no preparation whatsoever?

If mandatory staff training is imposed, as the Government wants, then as long as it's applied with a light touch, the trade should be happy to live with this. Even embrace it.

Similarly, an end to "all you can drink for a tenner" offers is surely a step we can all welcome. However well run these offers are, they still tarnish our industry's image; and when badly run, as most are, they do terrible harm. And promotions targeted at women only are equally likely to lead to trouble. We can live without them too.

Unit abv information is something customers are entitled to know, so again, this Government measure is only asking licensees to be properly professional. And surely minimum-size glasses are no big hardship either?

These steps are a price worth paying to get Government off our back. And all the more so as Government has finally screwed up its courage and told supermarkets they too must rethink the way they promote and sell alcohol. There are a number of steps Tesco et al will not like one little bit, particularly limits on the display or advertising of discounted price offers, and restrictions on discount deals.

Nor will they like the Government's wish to consider taking action against below-cost selling. Nor the police body ACPO's view that "for too long some retailers have been putting profits before responsibility and cutting the price of alcohol until it is cheaper than water."

Before MA is accused of being too soft on Government, just remember the place we have been in. Vilified and the New Tobacco. So yes, as ever devil is in detail — and there's much to be thrashed out. What we don't want is another avalanche of red tape. But so far, Government seems to be listening.

Related topics: Legislation

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