Alcohol code could be delayed until after election

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Free tap water, House of lords

The government's controversial mandatory code of practice could be delayed until after the general election, a senior trade figure has claimed. The...

The government's controversial mandatory code of practice could be delayed until after the general election, a senior trade figure has claimed.

The first stage of the code is due to take effect on April 6 - which will see "irresponsible" promotions banned and force pubs to offer free tap water.

But Kate Nicholls, head of communications at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, has raised serious doubts this timetable will be kept to.

Draft regulations covering the code were laid before Parliament yesterday - but before they take effect they must be debated by both the House of Commons and Lords.

"It's going to pretty tight," said Nicholls. "It's not just an administrative procedure, these regulations have to be debated by both houses.

"Ordinarily, this process is a matter of mere formality, but in the run up to a general election, it becomes less certain.

"It remains a possibility that these regulations will fail to be approved in time ahead of a general election."

However she stressed the powers to bring in the code, with the second stage due on October 1, would remain in place.

The regulations tabled yesterday attempt to shed more light on the detail of the new laws. One new element to emerge is a ban on promotional flyers which "glamourise" anti-social behaviour or refer to the effects of "drunkenness" in a "favourable manner".

On the issue of free tap water, it says it must be served when asked for "where it is reasonably available".

Meanwhile, the Home Office now estimates the code will initially cost the trade £55.6m to implement - and £39.2m annually after the first year.

This is based on altering promotions, making sure an age checking system is in place, offering a wider choice of measures for beers, wines and spirits, and ensuring free tap water is available.

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