Jobs will be lost if beer duty stamps approved

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

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End of the line: Robinson warned he may be forced to shut down a packaging line
End of the line: Robinson warned he may be forced to shut down a packaging line
The head of a family brewery has said he'll have no choice but to take out a shift on his packaging line if the government brings in duty stamps for cans and bottled beers.

Oliver Robinson, joint md at Frederic Robinson Brewery in Stockport, said he was convinced the government did not realise the impact its policy would have.

Ministers want to introduce duty stamps in a bid to cut alcohol fraud. The measure is currently out for consultation with a view to implementation next year.

£2,500 an hour

Robinson, whose firm also offers contract brewing and packaging, said: "Our packaging line costs £2,500 an hour to run. If you have to stop that to change labels​ [for bottles for the UK or abroad] it costs more money.

"We'd also need segregated warehousing for labels and segregated 55warehousing for stock and we do not have that facility. My concern is that we'd be in a position where, for a number of our customers, we'd have to say we can't justify packaging for you any more unless you are prepared to pay a higher price, which they won't, because the supermarkets won't accept it."

Robinson was recently part of a trade delegation to the Treasury with the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) to discuss the issue and the government's beer duty escalator with economic secretary Sajid Javid. "I said to him, if you bring this in, we won't have any choice but to take out a complete shift at our packaging line. That's 18 jobs gone,"​ said Robinson.

"We want our packaging line to always be running. It's like an aeroplane: if it's on the tarmac and not in the air, it's not making money. This will have a huge impact on our business and our packaging capabilities."

Targeting the wrong branch

Both the BBPA and Robinson argue that the government is targeting the wrong branch of the supply chain if it wants to tackle alcohol fraud.

Robinson said the problem does not lie with producers "who have an open book policy with HMRC​ [Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs]"​ but lies further down the line.

"It is when it goes to secondary and third wholesalers that fraud is being committed, yet it is the brewers who are being punished and having to pay for it.

"Once we have sold to a customer, we lose control. If a wholesaler sells it to another company that says they've sold it to France when it has never left the country, that is who they should be targeting, not kicking the brewers who are doing things legitimately,"​ he added.

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