AAT news review: last orders for the Government's minimum pricing of alcohol?

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Confusion over the Government’s minimum pricing of alcohol, Ray Winstone threatening to ‘do a Depardieu’ over UK tax and David Lammy proving there’s no Papal smoke without fire all hit the headlines this week. Steven Perryman enters the conclave of  news

It’s been a good week if you like to stay hydrated on the cheap.

Ever been to the cinema, ordered a drink and walked away with a bucket of fizzy stuff? As well as damaging your health, the drinks also come with a cast iron guarantee of a mandatory mid-film toilet break (unless you are in ownership of titanium pelvic floor muscles, of course).

In New York, such mid-film toilet breaks looked to be a thing of the past with Mayor Bloomberg leading plans to ban large sugary drinks in a bid to tackle obesity. That was until Judge Milton Tingling (cracking name, that) blocked the ban just a day before the law was to take effect this week. It’s an intriguing development, especially with plans afoot in the UK for a tax on fizzy drinks.

Last orders for the Government’s minimum pricing of alcohol in England and Wales?

Food for thought, or juice to drink, for the UK Government whose latest brainwave – introducing minimum pricing of alcohol in England and Wales – may have received its last orders.

The BBC reported this week that there is now significant pressure within the Government for the minimum pricing plan to be dropped, amid opposition from cabinet ministers including Home Secretary, Theresa May, and Education Secretary, Michael Gove. Responsible drinkers country-wide can rejoice (for now).

How apt then that the national broadcaster has been ramping up its Budget coverage in suitably liquid fashion. Yep, this week it sent its political editor, Nick Robinson, to The Osborne View pub in Hampshire to get the opinion of punters about next week’s speech.

What transpired was an engaging news piece clearly filmed during a serene lunchtime service. You can but wonder what sort of western-style bar brawl would have ensued had Robinson gone in at closing time and mentioned the Chancellor’s name.

Ah yes, the Budget – it’s now just under a week away and the sharks continue to circle the blood in the water. This week the CBI joined the debate, urging George Osborne to prioritise investment in housing as part of moves to boost the economy through construction. Up in Salford, meanwhile, the Beeb knocked up an off-beat guide to the Chancellor’s big day.

Just when things couldn’t get much worse, it was reported this week that the chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility – the body set up by Osborne to provide independent analysis of the UK’s public finances – has written to the Prime Minister challenging claims he made about the impact of Government spending cuts on economic growth. Which makes you wonder: has there ever been a worse run-in to a Budget for a Chancellor? Could we see white smoke billowing from Number 11 sometime soon?

HMRC ramps up RTI promotion ahead of 6 April launch

With all focus on the Budget for the next week, it’s easy to forget that the introduction of Real Time Information (RTI) will fall just after the Easter break in April. This week HMRC unveiled a campaign across TV, radio and newspapers to remind employers of all sizes about its imminent arrival. It kicked things off by releasing a public information film from 1944 introducing the PAYE system:

Money well spent, yes, but money it has in the coffers? Not if you factor in the £1m loss the government department has reportedly taken on the winding up of camera chain, Jessops.

Elsewhere, the cockney geezer we all love has been bemoaning the UK’s taxman. No, not Danny Dyer (whose latest film took just £602 at the UK box office). Yep, actor Ray Winstone has threatened to head off for sunnier climes if the tax situation in the UK does not improve. Could the great man be about to apply for Russian citizenship, perhaps?

Ray’s not alone though, with Bloomberg reporting John Paulson, a lifelong New Yorker, is exploring a move to Puerto Rico to save tax. Not much of a story so far, right? Not until you consider the $9.5bn he has invested in his own hedge funds. For Paulson, clearly, every cent counts.

Supermarket giants go to war over price matching

Over on the high street, the big names have been having mixed fortunes. Perennial success story, John Lewis, has had a rare bout of bad PR with reports it is abusing its supply chain, while Asda has shown interest in buying troubled music chain, HMV.

Never one to be outdone, Tesco has shrugged off its travails of late to buy out high street restaurant chain Giraffe (no gags about the contents of the burgers, OK?). While all the supermarkets are about to go into ‘price match’ battle with news Tesco is to introduce a scheme of its own that gives shoppers instant money-off vouchers at the checkout.

Although just as the Tesco PR department started to put its feet up, its week went from good to bad like a bat out of hell, with news that tests on its meatloaf showed it to contain – you guessed it – horsemeat. Whether said meatloaf gives you the trots has yet to be established.

No smoke without fire for Labour MP

It’s been a week where all attention has turned on a race full of runners and riders as they battle it out for an almost religious supremacy. No, not the Cheltenham Festival or the arrival of über-musical Book of Mormon to London’s West End. It is, of course, the Papal election which saw Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio become the first Latin American to be elected as Pope.

It is a fascinating process which can bamboozle with its antiquity and odd customs. Especially if you’re an MP.

David Lammy, the Labour MP, had to apologise this week after accusing the BBC of spreading ‘silly innuendo’ about the race of the Pope after failing to realise a tweet about ‘black or white’ smoke referred to the way the conclave selects a new pontiff.

As MP social media faux pas go, it’s up there with Conservative MP Aidan Burley’s description of last Summer’s universally-praised Olympic Opening Ceremony as ‘leftie multicultural crap’ in a tweet on the night.

Time for some social media training in the Commons, perhaps?

Steven Perryman is AAT‘s Editorial Manager

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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