Government plans to crack down on binge drinking and reclaim high streets for “sensible law-abiding drinkers” are set to be unveiled this week.
Home Secretary Theresa May said 24-hour licences have failed to produce the benefits of a “cafe culture” and tougher action is needed to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder which costs the taxpayer up to £13 billion each year.
The overhaul of licensing laws will give communities greater flexibility to find a solution that suits them, she said. Proposals included tougher penalties for serving under-age drinkers, with fines doubling to £20,000 for persistent offenders, and a late night levy to allow licensing authorities to charge premises which open late for the additional policing.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley confirmed that there would be a ban on selling alcohol at below cost price.
Reports suggested supermarkets will be banned from selling wine, beer and spirits below a national minimum price, which would be determined by adding together VAT and the cost of duty on the product. Licences could be removed from outlets that breach the rules, and ministers were also said to be considering reviewing the duty paid on beer with a view to hiking the rate for super-strength drinks.
Proposals being considered for the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill also include ensuring policing and health concerns are considered.
The move would enable the impact of licensing on crime and disorder or public safety to be taken into account when assessing licence applications.
Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire said: “We’re reclaiming the high street for sensible law-abiding drinkers by putting the community at the heart of licensing decisions and creating tougher powers to tackle under-age sales.
“No-one is claiming that every pub and club is a problem, in fact many pubs are a vital part of community life, but we know a minority drive damaging crime and disorder. It’s time that local people were put in charge so they can decide what the pubs and clubs in their town centres are like at night.”
Other proposals included enabling licensing authorities to suspend licences due to non-payment of fees and tighter rules for temporary licences.