Government could add more clauses to mandatory drinking code, warns expert

03 February 2010 by
Government could add more clauses to mandatory drinking code, warns expert

A leading licensing law expert has warned that the Government could introduce up to five more clauses to a mandatory code designed to crack down on irresponsible drinking.

The Government laid the Mandatory Licensing Conditions which are effectively additions to the Licensing Act 2003, before Parliament earlier this week.

Among the new conditions are a ban on ‘irresponsible' promotions, including the so-called ‘dentist's chair', as well as free tap water for customers, a new requirement to ask drinkers who appear to be under 18 to provide photo ID, and a requirement to provide small measures.

Three of the conditions are expected to become law on 6 April this year, provided they are not opposed by MPs, with the final two - the new requirements on age verification and smaller measures - coming into force in October.

But Jeremy Allen, a partner at licensing law firm Poppleston Allen, indicated that the Government still had the power to lay down nine mandatory conditions, meaning that it could add a further four.

Other conditions that the Government, as well as the Conservatives, have been considering include mandatory training for bar staff and minimum alcohol pricing, which could prove costly to the off-trade.

And Allen said that the number of extra conditions the Government may choose to impose could rise to five if it decides to ditch the ‘dentist's chair' condition.

"We know of one premises in Newcastle that may still be doing it but as far as I know nobody else is. About 15 years ago there was a little spate of them, so it was a very silly condition to impose. I regard that as very much one they could easily get rid of if they wanted to," Allen said.

He added: "If the Government has got the power to add nine conditions, it can do it at any stage. Both Labour and the Conservatives are fairly keen on seeing extra pressures put on the licensing trade. But nobody is going to propose that there is a minimum pricing just before the election, particularly for off sales. But after an election, it could be a fairly obvious one."

The Government has estimated that the five conditions it laid before Parliament this week will represent an extra cost of £55.6m in the first year, and £39.2m each year after that. But it claimed that the bulk of the extra costs would "largely fall on the minority of retailers who are selling alcohol irresponsibly."

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By Neil Gerrard

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