Government plans to change Britain's boozing culture and crack down further on binge-drinking announced in a report this week have been criticised as excessively harsh on the hospitality sector.
The £10m-a-year national Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy developed by the Home Office and Department of Health (DoH) will conduct an independent review into the pricing and promotion of alcohol through deals such as happy hours. The report also calls for the development of plans to deal with local problem areas throughout the country.
However, industry leaders insist the situation is not as desperate as the Government is making out, as recent changes in licensing laws and inflation-busting price rises have already led to reductions in alcohol-related crime.
A spokesman for the British Beer & Pub Association said: "In the last 12 months the amount of crime] fell by more than 4% - the largest fall for 30 years."
A Campaign for Real Ale spokesman added that pubs had already made "huge steps towards being socially responsible" with the eradication of many drinks promotions, and slammed supermarkets for continuing to heavily discount alcohol.
"Supermarkets are using alcohol as a loss-leader, and their price promotions do not encourage social responsibility," he warned.
Paul Smith, executive director at the Bar, Entertainment and Dance Association, said the report did not acknowledge the role that the on-trade already plays in local partnership schemes to discourage irresponsible drinking and alcohol-related violence.
He said: "There is already strong corporate social responsibility to encourage customers to drink responsibly. It would be a mistake to batter the trade when significant work has been done, and there is a missed opportunity here to promote local partnerships."
John McNamara, British Institute of Innkeeping chief executive, said that the report addressed what large elements of the licensed trade have been saying for years.
"A pub can be one of the most responsible places to consume alcohol," he added.
• Also this week, the British Medical Association has called for pubs and bars to display posters detailing the amount of alcohol in glasses of beer and wine. By 2008 bottles and cans will have to display warnings about the units of alcohol contained as part of the DoH's Drink Aware programme.
By Christopher Walton
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