Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Doing your duty

Seeing this breakdown of the cost of a £4.99 bottle of wine got me thinking about alcohol duty again. As you can see, it's not just us beer drinkers that are being ripped off by the government for tax and duty, and it's worth remembering that the notorious duty escalator still exists for all drinks other than beer.

When I've previously written about alcohol taxation, occasionally someone has commented that they'd prefer money to go to schools and hospitals (have you noticed it's always 'schools and hospitals'?) rather than towards cuts in alcohol duty. It seems a fair point, until you analyse it. Government expenditure is not a simple choice between alcohol duty and schools and hospitals: if the economy were as simple as that, we wouldn't be in our current mess. Despite the current high levels of alcohol duty, funding to schools and hospitals is declining anyway because of inflation, which calls into doubt any genuine link between the two. I'd also point out that there never seems any shortage of money to go to war, or to maintain and replace our weapons of mass destruction. I could go on, but I won't, as it's not really what ReARM is about.

Such simplistic arguments are the emotive stock in trade of any politicians who want to divert attention away from areas of government expenditure that they don't want us to scrutinise, so it's disappointing when ordinary voters show they've fallen for them by recycling the same nonsense. Despite the beer escalator victory, the UK still has one of highest levels of beer taxation in Europe. I get the impression the some people think we've achieved some kind of total victory, but we've merely won one battle. The chancellor giveth - the chancellor may take away again. I am certain that the issue can and will arise again.

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