Greater restrictions on how supermarkets sell alcohol - such as a ban on merchandising near the entrance or at checkouts - are likely to feature in the Government's revised bill to tackle alcohol harm, expected to be released today.

But the main provisions of the Alcohol Reform Bill are likely to be mostly unchanged, including a split age of 18 and 20 for buying alcohol, greater powers for local communities, and cracking down on the supply of booze at parties including after-ball functions.

The bill, which followed a comprehensive report from the Law Commission, is expected to be reported back from the justice select committee and tabled in Parliament today. It is almost certain to exclude mechanisms for higher alcohol prices and stronger restrictions on alcohol advertising, despite a strong push for these by public health advocates.

At the moment supermarkets can merchandise alcoholic products where they like, but this could be curbed by requiring all alcohol to be in a single area of the supermarket.


"It is often positioned near the entrance, the checkouts, beside commonly purchased household goods, or in other areas where shoppers must walk," the Law Commission report said. "The placement of alcohol in supermarkets is of concern because it impacts upon its price and availability, both of which are key factors affecting levels of alcohol-related harm."

Supermarkets are the source for about 70 per cent of all alcohol purchased.

The bill is almost certain to retain the need for party hosts to get consent from the parents of minors. At present, there are no such controls, even when under-18s are present. The original bill stated that supplying alcohol to minors was illegal unless provided by the parents, or if there were "reasonable grounds" to believe the supplier had the consent of the minors' parents. Consent could be implied if the supplier and the parents were well known to each other, but written or verbal consent could be needed if they were strangers.

Chairman of the justice select committee Chester Borrows said the best aspect of the bill was probably a greater ability for local communities to "dictate how alcohol will be supplied in their areas".

The number of licensed premises increased from 6295 in 1990 to 14,424 last February.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said the party would support the bill as it improved the status quo, but it still did not go far enough.

The bill is unlikely to pass in this term.

Likely change:

* Supermarkets required to keep liquor in one place as a condition of their licence, preventing them from merchandising alcohol products at the end of aisles, near the entrance or at checkouts.

Likely to be left out:

* Reducing alcohol advertising to objective product information only.

* Banning all alcohol-related sponsorship.

* Price increases, such as through a minimum price or an increase in excise tax.