Sunday, August 06, 2006

Liquid Larceny

There is a lucrative conspiracy against the public that goes about its work every day, and yet results in almost no prosecutions.

The more observant among you will be aware that I like to take the occasional pint or two of beer in the pub with my friends. I can confidently assert that almost every pint of draught beer sold is short measure, by between five and ten percent, and that this is deliberate policy to increase profits. (Before anyone from the Midlands and North jumps in, I am talking about London and the South here - the rest of the country has the nous to insist on paying for a pint and getting a pint).

In my time on the Bench I have only ever seen one prosecution of a landlord and that was for watering his beer. He added 12% water to premium lager, which at today's prices represents a theft of nearly 40p every time that he sells a pint.

The Government, by comparing the tax take from beer delivered to pubs with the tax take from beer sold by pubs estimates that the total fraud amounts to more than £150 million per year. I have seen a new barmaid being trained by her manager. "Always put a nice head on the beer" he said, "That way we don't get any bad stocks".

Worse, if you ask for the beer to be topped up, as almost nobody does, you face the near-certainty of a snide remark and a grudging top-up. Other little fiddles involve charging 25p to add lime or lemonade to lager while allowing nothing for the lager that is displaced, and charging the same for a pint of shandy as for a pint of beer, when lemonade from a dispensing unit only costs a few pence per pint.

Go into Tescos and buy a pound (all right, 454 grams then) of sausages, and you will get a pound. If they are short weight Tesco stand to be prosecuted, and indeed will be. Time after time MPs have tried to pass a law insisting that beer is honestly dispensed, and time after time the Government has weaselled out of doing anything.

I wonder why?

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