One of the most compelling arguments against minimum alcohol unit pricing, on top of the economic impact on hard-pressed Brits, was that the government didn’t really need a new weapon to tackle binge drinking - all the tools were already pretty much in the box.
Events of the past few weeks seem to bear that out, with dozens of local authorities using existing powers to embark upon schemes to crack down on super-strength booze, which was always at the centre of the government’s crosshairs.
However, as Birmingham becomes the latest and by far the biggest city to push for a voluntary ban, it brings to the fore the need for clear central guidance.
“The Birmingham ban brings to the fore the need for clarity and central guidance”
Ian Quinn, chief reporter
While some retailers have backed voluntary bans, others - notably Sainsbury’s and Morrisons - are concerned they breach competition rules. suppliers also fear local authorities could have other products in their sights. And there is something sinister, let alone undemocratic and anti-commercial about retailers, councillors (unelected by most people) and police (by none), deciding what products should be banned.
Yet from the government all we have is a deafening silence. It hasn’t even responded to its own alcohol policy inquiry and in the vacuum policy is being made up on the hoof. Localism at work, or ducking the issue? Take your pick.