Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 17:32 UK

Tories plan drink levy on shops

Grayling: Our town centres can be battle zones for our police

The Conservatives would introduce a "late night levy" on shops that sell alcohol after 10.30pm and pubs or clubs that stay open after midnight.

Councils would have the power to impose the additional charge to help pay for policing and cleaning up their areas.

The shadow home secretary told the Tory conference it was too easy to get "very drunk quickly and cheaply".

Chris Grayling also proposed "instant punishments" for anti-social behaviour that could be issued by police.

He said the measures would be aimed at "low-level activities" and would allow police "to rein back young people who are beginning to cause trouble" without having to take them to court.

24-hour drinking

Mr Grayling used his speech to call for "radical reform in every part of the system" - "the police, the CPS, the courts, prisons, probation".

We're not talking about stopping people enjoying a few drinks in the pub. But things have gone far too far
Chris Grayling
Shadow home secretary

He told delegates that many city centres had become "battle zones" for police due to drink-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour.

"No one thinks that the government's 24-hour drinking regime has led to the creation of a 'continental café culture'," he said.

"We're not talking about stopping people enjoying a few drinks in the pub. But things have gone far too far."

He added: "Under a Conservative government, late night problem premises will pay more for their licence, so we can pay more for policing in our town centres to tackle the blight of anti-social behaviour after closing time."

Other plans announced included:

  • Raising the price of a four-pack of super-strength lager by £1.33 and more than double the tax on super-strength cider
  • Increasing the price of large bottles of "alco-pops" by £1.50
  • Banning supermarkets from selling alcohol at below cost price
  • Doubling the maximum fines for those caught repeatedly selling alcohol to children to £20,000, and changing the law to allow to the worst offenders to have their premises permanently shut down
  • Extending the power of councils to restrict pub and club opening hours.

Mr Grayling said the Tories were still working on a range of instant punishments for anti-social behaviour, but these were likely to include the power for police to "ground" young offenders for up to a month.

Officers could also give on-the-spot community punishments, such as repairing vandalism, without having to issue a criminal charge.

He told the BBC: "Our youth justice system is reluctant to bring young people before the courts because it will tarnish them for life.

The biggest holes in the criminal justice system are the lack of prevention and detection
Chris Huhne
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman

"What we want is to find a way to make sure society says: 'No, this can't be allowed to happen' but doesn't necessarily leave that young person with a criminal record that's going to last the rest of their lives."

For more serious crimes, Mr Grayling said the party give police more powers to bring prosecutions themselves rather than waiting for CPS permission.

But Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "The biggest holes in the criminal justice system are the lack of prevention and detection.

"Chris Grayling is just talking tough about punishment. This approach was tested to destruction when the Tories were last in office - crime and violence soared."

Mr Grayling also said a Tory government would get tougher "on those who spread a doctrine of hate in Britain".

He pledged to immediately ban Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir - a move first suggested by Tony Blair after the 2005 London bombings, but later dropped.

The group denies links to terrorism and says it opposes violence, but does campaign for an Islamic state across the Middle East.

Mr Grayling told the BBC he was "extremely concerned" at its activities.



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