Letter: Alcohol and tax levels

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Sir: John Shepherd's article (20 May) on the House of Commons Agriculture Committee report on the Beer Orders contains the startling suggestion from a Whitbread spokesman that spirits should be taxed more heavily than other alcoholic drinks 'for health reasons'.

The committee recognised, quite rightly, that UK tax treatment of alcoholic drinks is flawed; that in the face of much lower competing rates in Europe - particularly our close neighbour, France - rates in the UK must be lowered 'to discourage cross-border shopping'; and that - most important - it would be sensible for all alcoholic drinks to be taxed at the same rate, according to their alcohol content. Why would a brewer think differently?

In making this latter point, the committee specifically cites health considerations as its reason, recognising that alcohol is alcohol. The benefits of drinking in moderation, and the harmful effects of excess, do not pick and choose between different drinks. Nor should the tax system.

Yours faithfully,


The Scotch Whisky Association

London, W1

20 May