Following the Government statement on the new, simpler, alcohol tax system Philip Dunne welcomes differential rates to allow pubs and restaurants to charge their customers a lower rate of duty than off-licenses and asks about the 18-month implementation period intended to help the wine trade adapt.
I warmly welcome the proposals announced by the Minister today in one of his most impressive performances at the Dispatch Box, and in particular the differential duty rates to allow pubs and restaurants to charge their customers a lower rate of duty than the off-trade, for which many of us have called for a long time. I also congratulate him on the point made by the Father of the House—differential rates on wines will be consolidated to a single rate for the vast majority of wines—because that reaches the principle of simplicity, which was an essential part of the consultation. What is the 18-month period dependent on? If we were to move then to differential bands per percentage of ABV, that would not really help the trade to prepare. The trade needs to know where it is going.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his kind words. My first ever Parliamentary Private Secretary job was as a PPS to him, as a brilliant Health Minister. He mentioned simplicity: he is absolutely right that that is a key part of the reform package. In terms of the wine easement, as we call it, the 18 months is there precisely to enable the sector to adapt to the changes that are coming. He was also right to emphasise the on and off-trade differences. There is a key point on those differences. It is again about public health. The evidence shows that, while all drinking should be done responsibly, where people are socialising and going to the pub, they are less likely to encounter the more severe end of problem drinking; that is more likely to happen in private. That is one of the reasons why we have the differential.