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Tories lacking in new ideas

Published:  18 January, 2007

After 10 years of Labour Government I felt a little bit of anticipation waiting to see the Conservative policy proposals to tackle alcohol misuse.

In developing their policy proposals on alcohol we do not know who they were consulting but it was certainly not the alcohol industry and they didn't take account of a whole range of current initiatives.

I will give you two examples: "Proposal 18 - We propose the next Conservative government should adopt a labelling strategy for items which damage health including tobacco, food and alcohol." We presume they missed the press coverage of the Government's voluntary labelling scheme to promote unit awareness and the Government's "Sensible Drinking Message".

"Proposal 19 - We propose that the next Conservative government should remove licences from shops prosecuted for selling alcohol and tobacco to minors."

The Licensing Act 2003 which came into force in November 2005 allows licensing officers to revoke a licence if a retailer sells alcohol to anyone under 18.

Furthermore, the Violent Crime Reduction Act has also introduced an offence of persistently selling to under-age customers. Police and trading standards officers therefore already have extensive powers to close down premises.

This seems to be policy development in a vacuum and a missed opportunity. Anyone working in the alcohol industry could have pointed out the Government has already enacted all of these policies. I was hoping for some new ideas on tackling alcohol misuse, but all we got was more of the same.

My major concern is the Conservative policy team did not take into account the fact alcohol consumption is falling. This is an inconvenient statistic that quite a few policy makers and advocates choose to ignore.

Jeremy Beadles is chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association partnerships between retailers and local authority planners and police.