The called-for licensing objective around health and wellbeing should be similar to Scotland's regulations, said Police & Crime Commissioner in Devon & Cornwall Alison Hernandez at the House of Lords review of the Licensing Act 2003 this week.
There should be greater effort from licensees to publish the health risks associated with alcohol, she said.
"It's about individuals understanding what they are doing to themselves, to their bodies, to their health," she added. "There's a responsibility on the licensees, I would argue, or there should be under this objective, to make people aware.
"Just like we have on cigarette packets, it should say what happens to you if you choose to drink – and if you choose to drink a certain amount, what [effect] that might have. It might be calories. It might be 'this is the amount of calories you are taking in'."
Such a rule change could benefit the on-trade by discouraging people from pre-loading, she added.
“Let's be frank [about] the pre-loading that happens in the night-time economy. All of the effort gets exploded, if you like, at the pub and club end of the spectrum. [That's] where all the effort goes in, but actually it's all coming from the pre-purchased alcohol. We can't show that direct link, but we know it.
“I think if we put a public health objective into licensing, it will help bring that responsibility to those establishments that they will have to do things to educate people that are buying from them and make sure that an effort is going in on every level.”
On the possibility of a health and wellbeing licensing objective, Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) told the committee: “I fully agree with a health and wellbeing objective. For me, this is about individual responsibility, and individuals understanding the impact alcohol is having on themselves. I think this has been incredibly successful in other areas, such as the cigarette campaign.”
The House of Lords committee has been investigating how effective the Licensing Act 2003 has been in England and Wales. Throughout its investigation, it has heard a variety of evidence on voluntary partnerships between licensed premises and the authorities, such as Best Bar None.
Collaborate with police
The panel of police experts unanimously agreed that they had had a positive experience of these schemes that see on-trade venues voluntarily collaborate with the police and local authorities.
When asked by the Lords about voluntary partnerships, Kearton said: “I think that, to some degree, we have dealt well in partnership with the on-licence premises. There are a number of very successful initiatives, many of which are run and supported by the industry, such as Pubwatch and Best Bar None. They work very well in the on-licence premises.”
Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, from the Police Superintendents’ Association, agreed: “When policing works in partnership with the licensed trade, and it does work well, it's very effective in showing a safe environment for people.”
Finally, Hernandez gave the committee anecdotal examples of successful partnerships she had witnessed. “In my area, the establishments work very closely with the police,” she said.
“They are very happy to work in partnership and we have some excellent industry-led initiatives, like Best Bar None, which has just been relaunched in a number of areas in my patch. This is the industry taking responsibility and I am not having complaints in my area.”