Deputy Lindsay Ash has raised concerns with the competition watchdog CICRA over the Island’s alcohol market after learning that drink taxes were lower here than in the UK, but the price of a pint was still much higher than the British average.
After initial work, he is now considering asking Chief Minister John Le Fondré to order CICRA to carry out an investigation into the matter.
The Deputy successfully battled for below-inflation rises on alcohol in last year’s Budget after pledging to freeze drink duties in his election campaign.
He would now like further work to be carried out to investigate why Islanders are paying so much more for a pint than many UK residents.
‘Our taxes [impôt duties and GST] on alcohol are actually substantially less than the UK, which I wasn’t aware of before I got elected,’ he said.
‘But our price per pint is substantially higher, so something, somewhere is wrong. So I decided to speak to CICRA about it and would like them to look at it.
‘The Chief Minister would need to ask CICRA to carry out an investigation, so I could ask him to do that.’
Deputy Ash said that after looking into the matter he discovered that there were restrictions on pubs charging less than their competitors for drinks in Jersey, which he believes may prevent low-cost chains like Wetherspoons from coming to the Island.
And he added that he expected that alcohol prices would still increase above the RPI [inflation] rate this year, despite the reduced impôt rises that he fought for in the last Budget.
‘Alcohol duties went up below inflation this year. I was pleased with that – it was the first time in 20 years,’ he said.
‘But I bet that the prices in the pubs still went up over and above that. Pint prices over here are London prices, which are the most expensive in the country.’
Deputy Ash said that the positives of pub life were often ignored or not spoken about during political debates.
‘In a lot of pubs you might have some old bloke whose wife has died, and going to the pub might be the only social interaction that he has,’ he said.
‘£5 a pint can work out very expensive. If he is just coming in for one pint each day, then that’s £35 a week. It is a regressive tax.’
He added that he felt constantly raising taxes on alcohol was ‘immoral’ and that the States only did so because they knew people would continue drinking and they would increase revenue from it.
‘There is a health argument [for raising taxes on alcohol] but ultimately the government is doing it to raise money,’ Deputy Ash said.
‘If it’s just for health, why don’t you have a hamburger tax or a bacon tax or a jam doughnut tax? They are just as bad for people.
‘So, for me it’s a dishonest tax because people will always continue to drink and they are taking advantage of that.’
According to Deputy Ash:
- Jersey duty and GST on a pint: 55p
- UK duty and VAT on a pint: £1
- Jersey average pint cost: £3.72
- UK average pint cost: £3.06