ALE Spring 2000 No. 297

Government Watch

Licensing Reform

The Home Office has at last produced the White Paper Time for Reform: Proposals for the Modernisation of Our Licensing Laws.
A summary:

New Stealth Tax on Small Brewers

Customs & Excise announced in late 1999 that from January it would be taxing small brewers for the extra beer they put in barrels just to be sure they're giving full measure.

After vigorous campaigning by brewers, pointing out that they can't afford the very expensive measuring equipment to ensure barrels are filled exactly, the implementation of this extra tax has been deferred and hopefully will be quietly dropped. A working party of government and industry has been formed to review the proposal, which sounds like a standard Civil Service face-saving method of killing off an idea.

The trade body SIBA estimated it would cost 600,000 in extra duty and 400,000 in measuring equipment, which in the end drinkers would have to pay for.


Beer Orders

At long last the Office of Fair Trading is reviewing the supply of beer, 11 years after the Beer Orders. The Director-General, John Bridgeman, is leaving in October and he says the review will be completed by then (it's due in August).

The review will look at key issues such as the heavily-discounted deals between big brewers and big pub chains which keep out the over-taxed small brewers.

The review will not cover supply agreements between tenants and chains as those have been considered by the OFT and the European Commission recently, concluding that such arrangements had no effect on competition.

The OFT Press Release says some of the issues to be considered will include:


Soft Drinks

The Office of Fair Trading found that pub soft drinks were not overpriced relative to supermarkets - prices were fair given the high overheads. It found that prices in restaurants are too high though.

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