Pubs and bars are unlikely to face new legislative action under the long-waited Alcohol Strategy, although voluntary agreements currently in place could be extended, M&C Report understands. This could mean new collective pledges around areas such as promoting lower-alcohol products, unit labeling at the bar and on packaging, more support for voluntary social responsibility initiatives, and more work around alcohol information. It’s rumoured that Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary leading the Responsibility Deal with the industry, wants to reduce the number of alcohol units sold by 1bn; Heineken UK alone has pledged to remove 100m units by 2013. Health minister Anne Milton told Parliament earlier this month that she wants to “remove a significant number of units”. Some sources believe the threshold for the lower level of beer tax could be increased in next month’s Budget, while the higher tax on beers above 7.5% ABV could be extended to other drinks categories. However, fresh action against the on-trade specifically is unlikely, with ministers and officials mindful of the tough measures such as the late night levy to come into force this year. In addition, while the Home Office has been responsible for previously national alcohol plans, the Department of Health, which is seen as less keen on regulation, is the lead department behind the forthcoming Alcohol Strategy. Alcohol pricing is also set to be included in the Strategy. David Cameron is openly sympathetic towards minimum pricing, and moves to implement it in Scotland and more recently across Northern Ireland and the Republic add pressure on him to act. However, Lansley is known to oppose the move and Milton has said it’s “probably illegal”. The Government’s stated aim is to ban alcohol sales below cost, and although the currently definition of VAT plus duty is widely seen as ineffective against cheap supermarket prices, adding production costs is “fraught with difficulty”, said one source. A source said: “There’s no clarity from within Government as to what the next step could be [on pricing]. “They’ve talking about bringing in below cost sales as the first step and also that there should be a second step. But ministers and officials have struggled to find that step could be if not minimum price per unit. “What we might find is it will end up with classic English fudge - not committing to minimum pricing, just agreeing to monitor the ban on below cost.” A greater focus is likely to be on “innovative solutions” to tackle binge drinking, with Cameron yesterday promoting measures such as “drunk tanks” to detain inebriated people. The Government has also pledged £1m towards funding community alcohol partnerships. Cameron said yesterday: “This isn’t just about more rules and regulation. It’s about responsibility and a sense of respect for others. This is an area where the drinks industry, supermarkets, pubs and clubs need to work with Government so that responsible drinking becomes a reality.” The Alcohol Strategy is due to be released in the next few weeks.