Speaking at last week’s Business in Sport and Leisure (BISL) conference in London, Tuppen proposed the idea of a voluntary code of practice to govern alcohol retailing, but admitted he was “uncomfortable with the imposition of minimum pricing.”
The Enterprise boss also launched an attack on the government’s “punitive” beer duty escalator, saying it is time to “level the duty playing field so cynically distorted” by George Osborne and “put right the duty wrong perpetrated by Gordon Brown”.
“Pubs don’t want to be treated as a special case but we do need to see an end to the discrimination which will lead to more pub closures and more job losses,” said Tuppen.
“I am uncomfortable with the imposition of minimum pricing, no matter how attractive it might seem. I believe that we need a society which suffers from less regulation and not more.
“However, a minimum pricing level may well be necessary if we are to have a ban on below-cost selling. Let’s at least have an honest and sensible definition of cost, not just tax, VAT and duty, but also production, packaging, distribution and everything else which goes with it.
“Can we ask the supermarkets to be responsible? This is really where the industry, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, the British Beer & Pub Association are all in loud agreement. Like cigarettes, why shouldn’t alcohol be sold behind the counter rather than picked up by anyone from the shelves?
“There should be a clear restriction on irresponsible advertising and multipack sizes could be reduced to say a pack size of four, rather than 20.
“There should be a ban on external advertising of price, something I think which would equally apply to pubs. These are simple solutions which the supermarkets should be encouraged, or perhaps bullied to follow, perhaps through a voluntary code of practice.”
Tuppen added that declining beer sales could be reversed with the abolition of the duty escalator.
He said: “I know the government is short of money so any action must be tax-neutral but it cannot be right to discriminate against beer, our national product, and the product which is at the heart of pubgoing.
“The duty escalator will see duty increase by another 7% at least this year. Scrapping the duty escalator will save 5,000 jobs alone.”
- An unabridged version of Ted Tuppen's speech to the BISL Conference can be read here