Bid to stop national conditions in mandatory code fails

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New laws Mandatory code House of lords

Efforts to stop the government introducing blanket national conditions covering the sale of alcohol appear to have failed, but the new laws will not...

Efforts to stop the government introducing blanket national conditions covering the sale of alcohol appear to have failed, but the new laws will not be passed until 2010.

During a debate in the House of Lords yesterday, an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill was tabled by Lord Skelmersdale aiming to stop the government imposing national conditions as part of a mandatory code of practice.

But the amendment was withdrawn following a debate between peers.

A bid to include action on irresponsible promotions in the Licensing Act, and ditch the code completely, also failed.

The British Beer & Pub Association had also made a last-ditch effort to get the government to see sense on the code, by writing to peers urging them to reject the new laws, which will cost the trade almost £58m in the first year.

Security minister Lord West of Spithead told the House of Lords: "We fully recognise that the majority of businesses sell alcohol responsibly, and we certainly do not want to impose unfair burdens on them, particularly in a difficult economic climate.

"However, a minority of premises in this country operate irresponsible practices and promotions… while we recognise that local problems are usually best dealt with at a local level, there are some problems or practices that are not local and therefore need a consistent and national approach."

However, Lord West said the government was still considering the 7,000 responses it had received to the mandatory code consultation, which was unlikely to be completed until the new year.

The code has been hugely opposed by the pub trade, but has been crticised by police and councils.

But the Labour minister assured peers the responses will be "fully taken into account when developing the final conditions to ensure that they are proportionate and targeted".

He admitted there was "no doubt" that "feedback to some elements of the code has raised practical difficulties".

But he said the government will look at whether local conditions are "still necessary".

However, this could be bad news for pubs, since one of the local conditions would give councils the power to stop supermarkets selling bulk deals.

Another amendment attempted to get action on minimum pricing included in the Bill - but this was withdrawn.

Lord West says there was not enough evidence to take action and more research must be done.

However, he showed support for the measure, branding the price of some alcohol as "ludicrous".

"I intuitively feel that a minimum unit price would help tackle the problem—a view which I was pushing with my officials—and would stop people preloading on large quantities of cheap alcohol and going on to cause trouble later," he told Parliament.

"The price of some types of lager as well as cider is absolutely ludicrous. It is a loss leader and I cannot quite see what they are trying to achieve with it sometimes."

The Policing and Crime Bill will be debated again in the Lords next Tuesday (October 20) and twice again in November.

Related topics Legislation

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