To audible sighs of relief, DBIS relented this week in its ludicrous Jo Swinson-led Midata quest, which would have forced retailers to supply every shopper in the country with annual details of savings they could have made at their store.
The Agglomeration of Multiple Distractions doesn’t end there, however. This week, like a latter-day Captain Mainwaring, PM David Cameron promised to attack red tape as if Nazis were invading Britain. So how should we read this week’s delay in the minimum pricing consultation? A classic example of tortuous red tape in the making, is the coalition having second thoughts? More likely, the delays result from internal squabbling between the Treasury - which has seen its revenues plummet to levels that once again threaten its triple-A credit rating - and the DH.
” Like a latter-day Captain Mainwaring, David Cameron’s Nazi red tape analogy is a joke”
Adam Leyland, Editor
A graphic in The Sun neatly summed up the punitive nature of the levy incurred on the alcoholic drinks industry. Since 1990, we’ve seen a staggering 20 inflation-busting increases in beer duty: on the same basis, the price of a pint of milk would be 98p a loaf of bread would cost £2.28 and a bunch of bananas would set you back £2.33. The damage from relentless and costly legislation - the government also wants to add duty fraud stamps to every can and bottle of beer - and taxation isn’t limited to beer. Off-trade wine sales are expected to fall by a further 10% in the next four years.
And while, as we revealed last week, the government has encouraged the Portman Group to relax one of its rules to allow lower-alcohol drinks to be marketed as such - sensibly in my opinion - the industry watchdog is itself prone to penalising businesses without evidence, and at great cost.
After five years of trade without a peep - from consumers, retailers or drinks rivals - a lone complaint has prompted the Portman Group to ban Laverstoke Park’s beer and lager, amid unproven concerns about encouraging underage drinking, from 7 January - a time frame GSCOP would consider unacceptable. And talking of GSCOP, Jo Swinson says supermarkets can be fined. So long as Vince Cable is OK.