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I wrote recently about how Tim Martin of Wetherspoon’s seems to alternate in a schizophrenic manner between talking sense and nonsense. But his latest musings are definitely in the “sense” camp:
Two of the pub industry’s most influential figures, JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin and Stonegate chair Ian Payne, have spoken out against the merits of introducing a minimum unit price of alcohol.
Speaking at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) conference in London, Payne said it’s “the worst thing that could happen to the industry”, and giving the Government control of prices is “asking for trouble”.
He compared it to the situation with university tuition fees, that were initially set at £2,000 by the previous Government and have now reached as much as £9,000.
The Government has proposed a 40p minimum unit price and Payne said: “All of a sudden 40p is £4.
“To set something at 40/50p that at the moment seems very good for the industry at some stage down the line if we give the Government control of retail prices it will hurt you.”
As I’ve argued before, minimum pricing will not give people a single extra penny to spend in pubs, and it is deluded and short-sighted to imagine that it will be in any way beneficial to the on-trade. Indeed, as Tim and Ian rightly recognise, it opens up the door to government control of pricing across the whole of the drinks trade, and who knows where that might end up?
It’s also worth reiterating the point that the academic study on which the minimum pricing proposals are based recommends that there should be a differential – and much higher – minimum price for the on-trade compared with the off-trade.