The pub industry has called for a "balanced approach" to binge-drinking after it emerged that the Government was looking into enforcing stringent measures on pubs and bars to combat drunkenness.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave his strongest indication yet that the current review of the Licensing Act 2003 would heed the advice of health and temperance campaigners above the voice of the on-trade.
Leaked minutes detailed a meeting between Brown and 27 doctors, campaigners, drinks company leaders and ministers (with the on-trade represented by the British Beer & Pub Association) that proposed tough measures to combat binge-drinking. Proposals included enabling police to designate trouble hotspots as "alcohol disorder zones" and effectively force problem pubs and clubs to pay for policing for at least three months.
But John McNamara, chief executive of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), said: "Let's keep a balanced approach to this debate. There are serious issues that we need to focus on but people use alcohol sensibly. We need to focus on the people who are not educating their children about alcohol."
The BII's alcohol education programme for children this week received the backing of operators Mitchells & Butlers, Punch Taverns, Marston's and Shepherd Neame, but McNamara was keen to stress that the industry must promote its initiatives for a binge-drinking crackdown better.
He also suggested that the Government needed to be "seen to be doing something" as part of its ongoing review of the act.
Paul Smith, executive director at the Bar, Entertainment and Dance Association, said that the alcohol debate must be "put into context", insisting that only a minority of drinkers consume to excess.
And Mark Hastings, director of communications at the BBPA, argued that the meeting did not indicate any clear direction the Government was going to take its binge-drinking policies.
By Christopher Walton
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