The government has come under fire for abandoning plans to impose a duty stamp on beer to tackle alcohol fraud.
In its response to its alcohol strategy consultation, the government rejected HMRC’s proposal for fiscal marks on beer products, similar to those on bottles of spirits.
Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said the decision was “a major step backwards that allows the black market to flourish at the expense of honest legitimate retailers and taxpayers”.
Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) chief executive James Bielby added: “The government has missed a chance to drive criminals out of the beer market and restore a huge revenue deficit, as well as to demonstrate its support for legitimate wholesalers and the thousands of law-abiding retailers who buy from them.”
Lowman also expressed concern about the “weak decision” to ‘consult further’ on proposals for a register of wholesalers. “While ministers dither these well organised criminal network can carry on with impunity,” he said.
However, the ACS welcomed the decision to scrap ‘cumulative impact’ plans which would have encouraged councils to restrict new off licenses.
“The government remains interested in this policy in principle, as there is good international evidence that controls on premises density reduce a range of harms from alcohol, including crime and health harms,” ministers said. “However more work is required at a local level to put in place processes to underpin it.”
It also scrapped plans to introduce alcohol minimum pricing, but banned below-cost selling of alcohol in England and Wales from 2014.