Tory tax plans attacked

13 July, 2007

Drinks industry figures have attacked Conservative proposals to raise tax on alcohol.

Plans to add 15p to a bottle of wine, 7p to the cost of a pint, and 25p to a bottle of whisky have been unveiled in a report by the social justice policy group, chaired by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

The tax hike is intended to tackle irresponsible drinking and the money raised would be used to fund treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

But the industry has hit back. Rhythm & Booze joint managing director Martin Swaine said the proposal was misguided and would not achieve its aim. "It's just political point scoring. People will binge drink irrespective of the price. It's not enough of an increase to really have any affect on binge drinking but it's enough to make life tougher for retailers like ourselves," Swaine said.

David Potez, owner of wine merchant The Grape Shop in Battersea, London, said trying to tax people out of drinking was "nonsense".

"They tried to do that with smoking and it didn't work," he said.

Michael Thompson, The Portman Group's head of communications, said increasing the price of alcohol would not necessarily deter heavy drinkers.

"In many countries in Scandinavia, alcohol is more expensive than here yet they suffer similar binge drinking problems. The opposite happens in France and Spain where alcohol is cheaper but they tend to drink sensibly. In any case, there are signs that the level of overall consumption is falling. Therefore the focus should be on the minority who do not appreciate the risks associated with heavy drinking," he said.

The first version of this story appeared on OLN's website

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