Thursday, 14 June 2012

I'll sup from that cup ... or how I learned to love being taxed ...

A report in the Telegraph today says that vast majority of alcohol sold in the UK (71% according to the report) is sold at a discount.

The report goes on to say that in Germany only 19% and in France 22% of alcohol was part of a promotion, whilst European average was 28.5%, with the Netherlands offering 30% of alcohol on sale at discounted prices.

The research by SymphonyIRI Group has emerged as the Government debates introducing a minimum price for alcohol of around 40p per unit. SymphonyIRI said alcohol was on "sale" more than any other product category in the grocery sector.

So let's start with the SymphonyIRI research for whom I've got just one question ... "Discounted from what?" Is there some universal standard price for alcohol?

Now here's one for HMG ... are you really surprised at the level of discounting by the on-trade when we have the second highest level of beer duty in Europe ... that equates to over 40% of all beer duty collected but only 13% of the beer consumed? Hard-working people up and down the land, who having been squeezed by the banking crisis that was not of their making, want an affordable pint in which to drown their sorrows ... what's so wrong with that?

No doubt the anti-drinking lobby and HMG will use this "research" to add gravitas to their claim that Minimum Pricing is required, well perhaps it is within the off-trade where the deepest discounts are applied and the lowest unit price is routinely charged in direct contravention of licensing requirements on retailers to be responsible in their promotional activity.
There are also concerns about the amount of alcohol being sold through the internet where a study by the University of Plymouth has found that online alcohol sales had largely fuelled a “significant and emerging battleground” in the efforts to tackle teenage binge drinking. Quelle surprise there then ... not! With next to no control over the sale of booze to minors how come online retailers aren't being subjected to the same level of scrutiny, regulation and control as the (by and large) on-trade?

Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer - Official Portrait June 2012
This administration is now infamous for its inability to "join the dots" when coming up with its policies, none more so than it's woeful attempt at an Alcohol Strategy. So Waldorf & Statler (you posh muppets) here's a couple of suggestions:

Ban the sale of alcohol on-line ... make it a requirement that physical proof of age is required to be seen and verified by an actual responsible human being rather than a useless age-verification algorithm.

Dare to create, not a minimum price, but a Standard Unit Price (SUP) for alcohol from which discounting is regulated, that would level the playing field between on and off trade and in the process allow those who truly add value by providing service, premises and safe controlled environments to consume it in (such as responsible retailers such as pubs) to make a decent return (and living) on the products they sell.

Even the acronym SUP is more appealing (and relevant) to drinkers than MUP (you muppets!) Not only that, but it would cut out all the accounting bullshit that goes on at HMRC to determine whether alcohol is being sold at below cost in the off-trade and thus depriving a hard pressed Exchequer of much needed tax revenues. It might even free up a few bods to chase companies and individuals who use "aggressive" tax avoidance schemes ... you say tomato I say to-mar-to ... you say avoidance ... I say evasion ...

I'm on a roll ... three's a charm ... whilst you're at it why not a Standard Rate of Alcohol Duty (on a sliding scale according to strength if you like) applied to all alcoholic drinks? Level both the supply and demand and allow some true transparency and simplicity in both the retail and manufacturing sectors. Too simple for you? Universal suffrage coupled with universal "suffering" ... and we'll really "all be in it together" bet there wouldn't be so many cases of Moet being delivered to No 11 then . (Honestly not a spoof ... spot the Associated Press copyright in the lower left corner.)

Anyways off to the pub for an over-taxed pint served by a hard-pressed publican in his vastly over-rented Punch pub ...

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