House of Lords committee

JDW boss calls on Lords to grill supermarkets over VAT

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Questions for supermarkets: Tim Martin
Questions for supermarkets: Tim Martin

Related tags: House of lords, Public house, Question

JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has called on the House of Lords select committee to question supermarkets on VAT and rates in its next hearing. 

Martin made the call as the committee revealed it would be questioning supermarkets as part of its next evidence session on Tuesday, 22 November. However, the committee said it was too early to confirm the topics for discussion. 

Martin told The Morning Advertiser​ that members of the committee should ask the question: “Nothing personal, guys, but do you think it’s fair that pubs pay 20% VAT on food sales and that you pay nothing? Do you think it’s fair that you pay 2p per pint for rates and that pubs pay 17p or so?”

The select committee, which is investigating the Licensing Act 2003, will quiz representatives from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Ocado.  

John Ellis, licensee of the Crown Inn, in Oakengates, Shropshire, called on the committee to tackle the issue of loss leaders.  

“Are they selling a licensed drug at a loss? I would be asking the supermarkets when they price alcohol for sale, do they take into account the price of purchasing it, stocking it, the costs of sale and putting it on the shelf.”

He also questioned the choice of supermarkets for the debate.

“They are not really the pile-it-high and sell-it-cheap merchants,” he added.

Meanwhile, British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The committee should certainly be urging a level playing field for on-trade and off-trade retailers.

"In my evidence, I raised the issue that large on-trade retailers – in the higher fee band – often have to pay a supplement to their licensing fees, but larger off-trade retailers do not. This is certainly the kind of issue that the committee should be considering, in order to make the system work better and to reflect the move of the sale of alcohol from the on-trade to the off-trade.”

The committee will hear from Nick Grant, head of legal services at Sainsbury's; James Brodhurst-Brown, manager, regulatory affairs and trading law at Waitrose; Mark Bentley, customer operations director at Ocado; and Peter Adkins, director of regulatory services for Emms Gilmore Liberson solicitors.

The House of Lords is investigating the impact of the Licensing Act 2003, with a view to publishing a report in March 2017. It is expected to make recommendations on the current legislation.

The Lords committee has already conducted nine evidence sessions, quizzing a range of interested parties, including pub companies, police, residents’ associations, academics and public health bodies.

Related topics: Licensing law

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