Yesterday we heard that the Government was coming under increasing pressure to ban below-cost sales of alcohol, as it was indicated that this was costing the exchequer approximately €21m per annum through lost VAT and excise duty.
To me, this makes sense, and is as much a public health issue as it is an exchequer issue. It’s clear that main supermarkets are benefiting from this, to the detriment of smaller retailers, as well as bars.
Allied to this, is the campaign we have seen waged by the Vintner’s Association to get the Government to consider reducing excise duty in pubs ahead of the Budget. My feeling is that an end to below-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets would, in turn, provide a boost to our pubs without reducing the excise duty.
It is interesting to note that while the costs of consuming alcohol in pubs has risen by an astonishing 300% since 1990, the price of alcohol in off-licences has halved. It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that any rise in alcohol consumption is likely to have taken place outside of pubs and is driven by cheap booze sold below cost by large multiples. This is reflected also by the six-fold increase in the number of off-licences in the past 10 years, against a backdrop of 20% fewer pubs in the same period. I think it’s time that the Government worked to change this, and I think a ban on below-cost selling would be a boost to the public health and, also, a boost to the exchequer.