Suppliers rally against laws that could end up ruining the drinks industry

29 November, 2012

Suppliers have slammed government plans to put a minimum unit price of 45p on alcohol because they believe it could open the floodgates for a raft of laws from those hell-bent on destroying the drinks trade.

Budvar CEO Tony Jennings called Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposal “the thin end of the wedge”.

He predicted efforts to impose a minimum unit price would be frustrated by EU law that in turn will simply result in a “massive rise in excise duty”.

Jennings said: “We should not kid ourselves this proposed measure is about curbing binge drinking.

“Rather it is about the loathing of our industry shown by the powerful neo-prohibitionist and health lobbies in an unholy alliance with a government determined to squeeze even more money out of us.”

Jennings believes it is naïve for some people in the on-trade to blame the off-trade for its pricing policies.

He said: “It’s about time that, to quote that infamous phrase, we realised that ‘we are all in this together’.

“There are people out there hell-bent on destroying this industry and they will welcome legal challenges to the minimum pricing scheme because it gives them an excuse to simply bring in another spike in excise duty that can’t be challenged.

“The only way we have a hope in hell of seeing this lot off is by working together.”

Michael Saunders, managing director of Bibendum, reiterated the phrase when he said: “This could be thin end of a very damaging wedge for our industry.”

He added: “This is poorly thought out policy that will do little to solve the problems it is intended to address.

“It is a simplistic approach to complex problems and evidence of a government that is not listening and failing to grasp the essence of the issues.

“Coming on top of a 42% rise in duty over the last five years, it penalises both responsible businesses and responsible consumers.

“The facts show that the industry’s promotion of sensible drinking is working and overall alcohol consumption is falling.

“The key to success is educating consumers to drink less but better, not further restrictions on businesses and individuals.”

The government is now seeking views from ministers, industry representatives and health workers in a series of meetings until February 6, 2013.

If it decides to press ahead with the minimum unit pricing scheme, it is likely to be met by the sort of legal challenge from the industry and from the EU that has caused Scottish ministers to shelve plans it agreed for a 50p minimum unit price indefinitely while legal wranglings are thrashed out. 

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