The government has announced a ban on 'all you can drink' promotions as part of a new strategy designed to crack down on crime and disorder.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith and health secretary Alan Johnson today announced the new £4.5 million scheme on Wednesday, hours after the Queen's Speech.
A joint statement claimed that a recent review had found that many retailers were not abiding by their own voluntary standards for responsible selling and marketing of alcohol.
The government claims it will now introduce a new mandatory code of practice to target the "most irresponsible retail practices".
This will involve compulsory licensing conditions for all alcohol retailers and will give licensing authorities new powers to clampdown on specific problems in their area.
Today's statement claims that the government will consult shortly on a range of compulsory conditions including: a ban on all offers such as 'all you can drink for £10', outlawing promotions aimed at certain groups - such as women only, and ensuring that supermarket customers do no need to buy very large amounts of a product to take advantage of price discounts.
As part of the announcement, crime and disorder reduction partnerships are being awarded with a £3 million cash injection to target enforcement activities on specific alcohol-related problems in 190 areas across all police forces, the government said.
Ms Smith said this afternoon: "I don't want to stop the vast majority of people who enjoy alcohol and drink responsibly from doing so but we all face a cost from alcohol-related disorder and I have a duty to crack down on irresponsible promotions that can fuel excessive drinking and lead people into crime and disorder. That's why I will impose new standards on the alcohol industry that everyone will have to meet with tough penalties if they break the rules.
"There is no simple solution to tackling this problem - we all have a responsibility to tackle the binge drinking culture."
Mr Johnson added: "Our consultation results suggest that people want to see government tackle irresponsible promotions - we can't justify delaying action here while waiting for further analysis on changes to pricing.
"Low-cost alcohol is clearly linked to increased consumption and harm, so I'm not ruling out taking action on very cheap alcohol, such as alcohol sold below cost price. However, it would be wrong to make sweeping changes without taking account of all the options suggested by our new research. We need to do more work on this to make sure any action we take is appropriate, fair and effective."
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said it welcomed the news that the government was looking into the introduction of a mandatory code of conduct for the licensing industry.
"For too long, some retailers have been putting profits before responsibility and cutting the price of alcohol until it is cheaper than water," Acpo's lead for alcohol licensing, Mike Craik, said.
"There is no doubt that irresponsible drinking leads to alcohol-fuelled violence and suggestions that enforcement alone can provide an answer ignore the obvious. Last year, nearly one fifth of all violent incidents took place in or around pubs and clubs at a cost of £7.3 billion to the UK."