Health and welfare


When we leave the European Union, the UK will become free to set its own alcohol taxes and duties. I suggested previously that we need to be careful that the anti-alcohol lobby did not steal a march on the subject but this is what appears to have happened. A report on the Foodservice Footprint website says that the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute and our old friends the Institute of Alcohol Studies have published a report which argues that raising alcohol taxes could benefit the country by increasing both national income and employment, provided the additional revenue is invested in public services. Apparently, a 10% increase in alcohol tax would increase the UK’s Gross Domestic Product by £847 million and create over 17,000 more full-time equivalent jobs.

CAMRA, however, does not agree. National chairman Nik Antona responded, “Yes, supermarket beer is significantly more affordable today than it was in 1987, but the price of a pint within a pub has continued to rise. Calling for a 10% higher tax on alcohol products will not only impact on cheap supermarket beers but it will also devastate the pubs industry, which is already over-burdened by VAT, beer duty and business rates. Over a third of the cost of a pint in a pub is made up by taxes, which is incomparable to beer sold in supermarkets that are able to under-sell the product and absorb additional taxes. To really benefit society, supermarkets should be asked to pay a higher rate of tax on alcohol than pubs. This would not only help support the pubs trade but also support the public health message that enjoying a pint in moderation in a supervised and social environment is better than chugging cheap cans at home.”


According to an article in the Guardian (19 June), alcohol sales in Scotland in 2018 fell by 3% to the lowest level in 25 years. This was attributed to the minimum pricing of alcohol. Scots however still buy 9.9% more alcohol per head than people in England and Wales and consume an average of 19 units per week, as against the recommended 14. Some campaigners are arguing that inflation is eroding the 50p unit price and want it increased to 60p. The policy is due for review next year.


The Government has announced that the compulsory listing of all ingredients on labels for foods sold pre-packed for direct sale will come into effect in 2021. This will include beer in bottles and cans. The chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), Brigid Simmonds, commented, “As a sector, brewers and pubs are fully supportive of efforts to keep consumers safe. For those consumers who have intolerances or sensitivities that go beyond the 14 allergens listed in Food Information for Consumers, full ingredient listings will help. Although the mandatory introduction of full ingredient labelling is unlikely to impact brewers or pubs as much as other sectors, it is important the Government recognises that smaller producers may struggle to meet new labelling requirements.”


Should tap water be free to pub customers? According to guidance issued by the Home Office, any business that is licenced to serve alcohol should provide free drinking water when asked. Many publicans however are not happy about this. One went as far as charging £1 to someone who just wanted a glass of water with which to take his medication yet others will happily fill up water bottles for passers-by. There is virtually no cost for the water itself, given the volume used by pubs, but there is still the cost of service and use of a glass, even if this is minimal. To sit in a pub, taking up a seat and just drink tap water is unfair to the publican. If you are buying food or the odd drink, alcoholic or otherwise, I’m sure that you will not be begrudged the odd glass of water. If you are not spending any money on other products then a service charge is surely not unreasonable?


Just as CAMRA launches a campaign to encourage people to use pub gardens this summer, a warning appears in the Morning Advertiser about Asian Hornets. Normal wasps are bad enough but these sound really nasty. Fortunately, so far in the UK, they have only been spotted in Jersey. The serious message here is for pubs to quickly clear food leftovers from outside tables.
Compiled by Tony Hedger