Daily Telegraph (UK), Conservative Party Conference – Theresa May signals end to super cheap alcohol

  • Post category:World News

Supermarkets and shops are to be banned from selling ultra-cheap alcohol after the Home Secretary pledged to tear up Labour’s “disastrous” licensing regime.
Theresa May announced yesterday that she is pushing ahead with plans to ban retailers from selling drinks at below cost price, spelling the end for large discount offers which many have blamed for fuelling Britain’s binge-drinking culture.

Town halls will also be allowed to charge pubs and clubs an extra fee if they want to stay open late while the public will be handed greater powers to stop new venues opening or restrict existing hours.  It comes as the Coalition Government sounds the death knell for Labour’s 24-hour drinking regime.

In wide-ranging speech, Mrs May also told the Conservative Party annual conference that the days of “importing cheap foreign labour” must stop and warned police chiefs they could lose their jobs if they fail to cut crime.

The Home Office launched a consultation in the summer to overhaul the 2003 Licensing Act which saw the introduction of around the clock opening hours.

It has been blamed for aggravating alcohol-fuelled disorder and violence despite Labour claiming it would create a “café culture”.

Mrs May opposed the move in opposition and yesterday confirmed the first stages of the review will go ahead.

She told the conference in Birmingham: “So we will tear up Labour’s disastrous Licensing Act.

“I was the Shadow Culture Secretary when they introduced 24-hour licensing, and I fought them every step of the way.

“It gives me no pleasure to be proved right about the consequences – but it gives me great satisfaction to have the chance to undo it.

“We have just completed a consultation on the Licensing Act, and I can today confirm that, we will give local people more control over pubs, clubs and other licensed venues, we will allow councils to charge more for late-night licences, so they can spend more on late-night policing, we will double the fine for under-age sales and shut down shops and bars that persistently sell alcohol to children and we will ban the below-cost sale of alcohol.”

The move means shops will no longer be able to sell alcohol at below cost price although officials still have to decide how that will work in practice.

More power to the public means pubs and clubs could be banned from late-night opening because of the impact of drunkenness and noise on the wider community.

Venues may be refused a licence if local residents believe there are too many premises and their neighbourhoods are being damaged.

At the moment, the public can only object to opening hours or new licensing applications if they are neighbours of the premises but that will now be changed to include anyone in the locality who is affected.

It could include someone living close to a taxi rank used regularly by nightclub customers, people affected by noise because of night bus stops nearby.

Councils will also be able to introduce levies on late licences to contribute to policing and the maximum fine for persistently selling alcohol to a minor will be doubled to  £20,000.

Mrs May stood firm on plans to reduce numbers in all immigration routes to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands, adding: “Our economy will remain open to the best and the brightest in the world, but it’s time to stop importing foreign labour on the cheap.”

And she told police their only test of success is to cut crime while the public will have more say in policing through the plans for elected police commissioners to replace police authorities.

She said: “By giving the public the right to vote out a failing commissioner, and by giving commissioners the power to sack a failing chief constable, we will make the police truly responsive to their communities once more.

“And when people have the power to hold the police to account through elections, any commissioner or chief constable who doesn’t cut crime will soon find themselves looking for a new job.”


Source: Daily Telegraph (UK), 06/10/10
Journalist: Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor