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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Minimum Drink Pricing - would it have been a good idea?

So Gordon's come out against a minimum price per unit because he doesn't want to penalise the majority of moderate drinkers.

Hmm.  

A minimum price per unit would, obviously, increase the price of stronger drinks relative to weaker ones.  Beer, especially ale, being the lowest strength drink in the bar on average, would suffer less than other drinks, if at all.  Maybe this is why SIBA and CAMRA were both in favour of a minimum price per unit - it would have done beer some good, and helps to underline the fact that ale in particular is not a binge drink.

On the other hand, I've read lots of research that suggests price increases don't deter hardcore drinkers - they'll compromise on other things instead.  To quote (yet again) from The Daily Mash
Emma Hollis, a wine drinker from Twickenham, said: "If the price of alcohol doubles I will have to rethink my weekly shopping budget. What I can say is that, one way or another, by nine o'clock on a Friday night I am going to be completely and utterly off my tits."

Maybe Gordon Brown has seen the same research, and that's where he's coming from in this decision.  Or maybe he bases his decisions on satirical comic news sites.

But it does stick in the craw somewhat.  Alcopops and strong cider are currently charged at lower duty rates than beer despite being (a) stronger drinks and (b) the tippled of choice for your bingeing teenager.  When the duty rise to offset the VAT reduction in November was applied to most alcoholic drinks, a quiet word from the spirits guys meant that spirits were latterly exempted from this increase.  I guess that's why I agree with CAMRA's press release today that the government has been hypocritical on the issue.

The government is always keen to attack binge drinking.  But to judge it by its actions, you'd think they were more anti-moderate drinking.  Yet again they seem to have little clue on how to tackle the problems that exist in drinking, and it's beer and pubs that get shafted as a result. 

Or am I wrong - would a minimum price per unit drive prices up across the board and make beer suffer even more?

5 comments:

Mario (Brewed for Thought) said...

Pete, the problem isn't the aim of the government, it's the execution.

I know next to nothing about the British system of government, but I am sure there are lobbyists at work. The fact is, brewers and pub owners don't have the financial might behind them that the larger alcopop and spirits distributors have. So they take aim at drinking, and find a target they can hit. Sure, they might actually encourage binge drinking but when has government actually looked as cause and effect?

Fatman said...

I'm with Zyth - alcohol is not the problem. Leave it the f&ck alone and go sort out the real problems.

I note that GB asserted that he didn't want to punish the majority - why the @?>*& does he insist on a duty escalator then?

Mario for president - wise words.

impymalting said...

Ha! Well, the anecdote made me laugh. I think it's hilarious that people wear all this trekking gear to amble around places like Bath.

This is all very fascinating. So much for a free press-- if it ever was that.

I can't wait to read your new book.

Russell said...

When discussing the taxation of alcohol, John Stuart Mill stated that ‘every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price.’ Following this logic, minimum drinks pricing is far more prohibitionist than alcohol taxation.

Due to revenue concerns, Mill does support the taxation of alcohol up to a point. However, he would not have supported a prohibitionist law that would lead to a decrease in revenue for the State, certainly in terms of opportunity cost.

Another Mill quote related to restrictions on alcohol-licensed venues is of note here. Minimum pricing sounds exactly like a policy that would be enacted in “a state of society in which the labouring classes are avowedly treated as children or savages.”

Russell said...

When discussing the taxation of alcohol, John Stuart Mill stated that ‘every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price.’ Following this logic, minimum drinks pricing is far more prohibitionist than alcohol taxation.

Due to revenue concerns, Mill does support the taxation of alcohol up to a point. However, he would not have supported a prohibitionist law that would lead to a decrease in revenue for the State, certainly in terms of opportunity cost.

Another Mill quote related to restrictions on alcohol-licensed venues is of note here. Minimum pricing sounds exactly like a policy that would be enacted in “a state of society in which the labouring classes are avowedly treated as children or savages.”