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Tories pledge tax hikes on strong drinks

THE Conservatives would raise taxes on super-strength beer and cider by up to &pound;1.50 in an effort to crack down on binge drinking, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling told the Tory party conference in Manchester yesterday.<br /><br />Among a raft of measures designed to place tighter restrictions on the drinks industry, Grayling said retailers would be barred from selling alcohol at below cost price.<br /><br />Small breweries would be exempt from the taxes, which the Tories estimate could raise up to &pound;80m in revenue, in a bid to support local pubs that have been disappearing in recent years.<br /><br />A Tory government would also tweak licensing laws to hand councils the power to close down pubs and off-licences deemed to be in breach of rules on the sale of alcohol, Grayling said.<br /><br />Councils would be given the ability to limit opening hours and would be able to impose &ldquo;much bigger fines&rdquo; than previously available, he added.<br /><br />The shadow home secretary&rsquo;s policies on drinking would see the tax on super-strength lager rise by more than twofold.<br /><br />And a large bottle of alcopop would rise in price by &pound;1.50, while a four-pack of extra-strong lager would go up by &pound;1.33.<br /><br />&ldquo;These tax changes will not hit responsible drinkers,&rdquo; said Grayling.<br /><br />&ldquo;The ordinary pint in the pub will not be affected and there will be exemptions for some local traditional products.<br /><br />But we&rsquo;ll call time on the drinks that fuel antisocial behaviour.&rdquo;<br /><br />However, Grayling was left red-faced after he said that the appointment of former army chief Sir Richard Dannatt as an adviser to the Tories was a &ldquo;political gimmick&rdquo;.<br /><br />He was apparently under the impression that the appointment had been made by Labour, rather than by his own party.