Brown signals new curbs on booze ads

Self-regulation under threat as Labour moots ad crackdown.

The Government is to consider statutory controls over alcohol advertising as part of a new crackdown on underage drinking ordered by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

The terms of reference of a ministerial review, to be announced shortly, ask whether there should be "further restrictions - voluntary or otherwise - on the advertising and promotion of alcohol to minors".

The move will surprise the advertising and drinks industries. Only last month, the Department of Health said the Government was not looking at the voluntary code for alcohol ads because it had been reviewed recently.

Growing concern about underage drinking has led to a rethink. The cross-departmental review will be co-chaired by Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary.

The group will also consider whether more information should be given to parents, possibly through an ad campaign; tackling the culture of teenage drinking in schools; more regular visits to licensed premises and the impact of price on demand.

Although ministers may use the threat of legislation to try to secure a tougher voluntary code, Brown has signalled that he is ready to use a statutory approach where necessary.

This week he said the biggest influences on children included the internet, TV and commercial advertising.