LGA calls for new laws to be "generous" to pubs

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcoholic beverage Rob hayward

A local government chief has warned MPs that a national drinks code of practice would be a "hamfisted" approach to alcohol issues, arguing any new...

A local government chief has warned MPs that a national drinks code of practice would be a "hamfisted" approach to alcohol issues, arguing any new laws must be "generous" to pubs.

In a welcome boost for the trade, Cllr Chris White, the Local Government Association's chair of culture, tourism and sport board, yesterday said he was "nervous" about nationally imposed mandatory conditions, claiming it would not take into account "local circumstances".

Giving evidence to MPs on the Policing and Crime Bill, which contains plans for a mandatory code, White said: "We need to remember a community without a pub or a small shop is a community in serious difficulties.

"Legislation should be framed to be generous to pubs and shops.

"If they (pubs) are being operated properly, that is a place where alcohol is sold under supervision and that is surely the regime we want to see."

And asked whether on-trade or off-trade sales were more of an issue, he replied: "It has to be off-sales."

A national mandatory code could cost the trade around an estimated £300m in its first year. This is through extra training, pubs being forced to offer smaller size wine and spirit glasses, and lost profits.

Paul Holmes, an MP on the committee, also admitted he was "puzzled" by some of the measures in the code. "Some of them are window dressing effectively," he said.

Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, told the committee around 59,000 jobs could be lost in the pub sector in the next five years if the current rate of closures continues.

He also branded the Home Office's regulatory impact assessment of the code as "offensive" for suggesting job losses were a "price worth paying" for nationally imposed conditions.

Hayward said bad premises must be tackled, but urged the code to be balanced equally between the on and off-trade.

Meanwhile Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, and Mike Craik of the Asscociation of Chief Police Officers both came out in favour of a mandatory code.

But later Shenker argued that having a minimum price of 30p per unit would help cut crime.

However Hayward suggested there was "a lot of doubt" in the government's mind over its powers to tackle price promotions.

The Policing and Crime Bill could be law by the summer although it remains unclear whether a code of practice would become immediately active.

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