Off-trade must be tackled too in shake-up, minister told

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Community pubs Government License Greg mulholland

Supermarkets must be better regulated for the aims of the government's licensing shake-up to work, the minister in charge of the changes has been...

Supermarkets must be better regulated for the aims of the government's licensing shake-up to work, the minister in charge of the changes has been told.

MP Greg Mulholland, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub group, and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailer's (ALMR) Kate Nicholls met with Home Office minister James Brokenshire yesterday to discuss trade concerns over the coalition's plans.

Mulholland said the meeting was "productive", but added: "We made clear that supermarkets must be better regulated otherwise the aims of the licensing changes will simply not work, as much problem drinking is linked to the off-trade rather than to the on trade."

Nicholls added: "Additional controls on community pub operators must be matched by restrictions on off-trade practices if they are to deliver public policy success."

The controversial plans, due to begin their journey through Parliament in the next few weeks, include hiking licence fees on pubs, allowing councils to introduce a late-night levy on venues and changes to the appeals process over licensing decisions.

The proposals also include introducing a ban on below-cost sales in the off-trade.

But some are starting to fear this measure could be delayed as the government cannot decide the best way to implement a ban.

During yesterday's meeting, Mulholland and Nicholls also stressed the need for the government to distinguish between problem venues and well-run community pubs.

"We reiterated the Save the Pub Group's view that community pubs are a crucial part of the solution to problem drinking and expressed the concern that the measures don't differentiate between well run community pubs and problem venues, we believe they should," said Mulholland.

He added: "I am pleased that the minister did clearly acknowledge the importance of community pubs and said that he is listening to the consultation, so I hope that our views on behalf of community pubs will be listened to".

Brokenshire previously told The Publican​ in an interview the measures were not aimed to "get at pubs".

Nicholls added: "These proposals are extremely far reaching and will have unforeseen consequences for responsible operators throughout the country.

"We welcome greater local input into the licensing process but it must not be at the expense of local accountability in decision-making."

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