The Home Office has at last produced the White Paper
Time for Reform: Proposals for the Modernisation of Our Licensing Laws.
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.
- licensing integrated with local authority Public Ents. licensing
- separate licences for premises and landlord (making transfer far simpler)
- flexible opening hours provided public order maintained
- children permitted access at discretion of licensee
- the University of Cambridge loses its licensing right.
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.
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:
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.
- prices and choice of beer available to consumers;
- whether the withdrawal of guest beer rights from pubs owned by pub
chains is acting as a barrier to entry to small brewers;
- the structural changes in the industry in the past ten years - pub
chains now run about 40 per cent of UK pubs;
- whether pub and brewery exit and new entry to the market in the last
few years indicate any trends in relation to competition.
ALE Spring 2000 No. 297
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