The industry's voluntary code on the safe sale of alcohol does not work, according to an audit of nearly 600 licensed premises, raising the prospect of legislation.
The study, commissioned by the government from auditors KPMG, concludes that the code is, in the current jargon, 'not fit for purpose'. Alcohol retailers are routinely guilty of 'irresponsible and harmful practices', they say including serving under-18s, promoting alcohol with cut-price offers and serving people who are drunk.
The research team visited pubs, bars, nightclubs, off-licences and supermarkets in Coventry, Hackney, Harrogate, Manchester, Norfolk, Tyneside, Newquay and Swindon over a five-day period in February.
Supermarkets and off licences, by displaying notices on age and sensible drinking, generally performed better than clubs and bars. The latter frequently glamourised drinking and encouraged faster drinking. The report found that the industry's voluntarily-agreed standards were not consistently adopted, applied or monitored.
Frank Soodeen, head of public affairs at Alcohol Concern, told the BBC that the report was 'pretty definitive evidence' that voluntary regulation was not enough. 'It's time for ministers to take ownership of the issue and more clearly outline bar managers' responsibilities.'
The Home Office have threatened legislation if the voluntary code failed. A spokesman confirmed that 'the government has made it clear that alcohol must be sold and marketed responsibly and that new legislation will be introduced if necessary if existing voluntary standards are not being met.'
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