The Government’s round-the-clock drinking laws have caused so much trouble they must be torn up and replaced with tough new regulations, says the Shadow Home Secretary.
Chris Grayling set out the plans during his speech at the Conservative Party conference.
He highlighted the violence and social problems associated with heavy drinking and said: “No one thinks that the Government’s 24 hour drinking regime has led to the creation of a ‘continental café culture’.”
He added: “Our town centres on a Friday and Saturday night can be battle zones for our police.”
He said that “local parks and local estates are blighted by gangs of young troublemakers” fuelled by booze.
At the Labour Party conference Gordon Brown admitted the 24-hour-drinking laws are “not working”.
The Prime Minister said local authorities would be given “power to ban 24-hour drinking throughout a community in the interests of local people”.
Mr Grayling spelt out how the Tories would tackle the anti-social behaviour problems.
He said: “We’ll start with the problem of fourteen year olds hanging around with bottles of super-strength beers or ciders.
“It’s much too easy for them to get very drunk quickly and cheaply.”
He added the Conservatives would put extra taxes on alcopops and strong beer.
He also said the party would ban supermarkets from selling alcohol “below cost price” as well as placing a tax on shops selling alcohol late at night.
There would also be measures for late night “problem premises”, which he said would pay more for their licences to cover the cost of more policing.
Mr Grayling added: “I think there are times when it’s right to put the interests of communities ahead of the interests of business”.
Christopher Day, Professor of Liver Medicine at the University of Newcastle said he strongly supported the increases in taxes on certain drinks.
He said: “The strongest evidence based approach is to increase the price of problem drinks and reduce their availability.
“This has worked in countries across the world – and I’m in no doubt that it will work here in the UK too.
“The commitment to ban supermarkets from selling alcohol below cost price is also highly welcome, and will help tackle binge drinking across the country.”
The 24-hour drinking law has received widespread criticism from the police, councils and the NHS.
According to a survey published last year by the Local Government Association (LGA), nearly one in three NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) reports an increase in alcohol-related incidents since the 2003 Licensing Act.
Half of police authorities say that far from creating the promised continental-style café culture in the UK, the new laws have simply pushed alcohol-related violence later into the evening.
Seven in ten police authorities, PCTs and councils say that 24-hour drinking has either increased or failed to change levels of alcohol-related incidents.
And councils say that £100 million in taxpayers’ money has been paid out to implement the changes.
Mike Craik, Chief Constable of Northumbria Constabulary, said in August last year: “What 24-hour licensing has done is to give us more problems at three, four and five in the morning.
“Every force, certainly every force with a big town centre, is experiencing similar problems.”