Tag Archives: minimum pricing

I was wrong – Why we need a legally binding minimum price for alcohol

I have blogged before about the level of harm alcohol does to our society. On that occasion, I went on to argue against minimum pricing of alcohol, suggesting it was a bad piece of social policy as it disadvantaged the majority to help the minority in an incredibly ineffective way. I was wrong; alcohol abuse is affecting us all. Through broken relationships or broken livers, whether it is bankrupt pubs or bankrupt governments – alcohol is costing us all!

In 2010 we saw over a million alcohol related admissions to hospital. It is costing the NHS an estimated £2.7bn every year. We all pay the price of alcohol misuse. Equally, around 25% of the population engages in hazardous drinking. A lot of us are damaging our health by drinking too much. In other words, the problem we have at the moment is not just affecting a small group of drinkers – it is increasingly affecting us all.

Secondly, I have realised that putting a minimum price per unit of alcohol does not significantly affect those who do not over consume. In other words the criticism that is ‘affects the majority to help the minority’ does not stand up to scrutiny. If you are in the 75% of UK population that enjoys a drink, you will only pay a small amount extra per year’s worth of drinking. While those who drink too much on a regular basis will stump up a much larger bill. As a piece of social policy it directly acts to disincentives the behaviour we are worried about – consuming alcohol in large quantities.

Setting a basic 50p per unit price for alcohol would mean a can of beer would cost at least £1, a pint of beer would cost at least £1.50, a bottle of wine would cost at least £4.50 and a 70cl bottle of spirits would cost at least £14. This is hardly a big expense for someone drinking less than 3 units a day (as per Government recommended guidelines).

This small increase however would result in:

  1. Over 1,600 fewer hospital admissions in the first year alone and 97,900 fewer in 10 years time.
  2. 406 less deaths in the first year and 3,393 fewer in 10 years time
  3. 10,000 fewer violent crimes
  4. A saving of £66 million in reduced health costs and £49.6 million in reduced crime costs in the first year alone

Minimum pricing would cost responsible drinkers just a few pence per week and have a huge benefit to wider society. This is why I was wrong and why I now support minimum pricing of alcohol (at a much higher rate than most organisations advocate).


Filed under Beer, Politics

The Government’s decision to implement a breathtaking 7.2% increase in beer duty is outrageous

Community pubs like the royal oak in bath may be a thing of the past if the beer tax continues to rise

The Government’s decision to implement a breathtaking 7.2% increase in beer duty is outrageous. This takes the average duty and VAT on a pint in a local pub to over £1. We now have the second highest rate of beer tax in Europe! It is simply not acceptable. The “beer escalator” commits the Government to increasing beer tax above inflation and to the wrong policy path.

Take Bath as a case in point, nearly 2,000 people depend on Beer and pubs for work and the industry contributes over £22.7 million to the local economy every year. If it continues to shrink in the manner it currently is, local economies such as Bath’s will be severely hit. At a time of recession, this tax seems to be the opposite of what the struggling industry needs.

Equally, this extra tax will do nothing to stop the irresponsible drinker but do everything to hit the responsible pub goer. It will add on 10p to every pint in the pub, while the Government’s much talked about minimum pricing of alcohol will cap supermarket booze at a price that wouldn’t deter the stingiest of consumers. It is ludicrous to allow cheap supermarket booze, whilst taxing pub goers “for health reasons” at the same time. These measures penalise the majority of responsible pub goers whilst failing to tackle the heart of the problem which remains the question of why people consume such vast amounts of alcohol (often at home not in pubs).

At a time when 37 pubs are closing down every week in the UK, we need to be supporting these centres of our community, not putting them out of business. Where do Cameron and Osborne expect the big society to meet…the local Scout hut?

SIBA chairman Keith Bott said, “This is a real kick in the teeth to the local brewing sector, one of the few British success stories of recent years. Local brewers are just the kind of business this government says it wants to see prosper: they create jobs for local people and contribute to the local and wider British economy by using home-grown ingredients. Yet the current beer taxation regime is killing off our main route to market – the British pub.”

He continued, “The Treasury claimed before the Budget that their beer duty escalator is ‘baked in’. We say it is half baked! Continuing to increase taxes on draught beer, drunk in the socially responsible environment of the pub, will serve only to increase purchases of cheap vodka for unsupervised home consumption. We fail to see how this policy can help tackle binge drinking.”

The Government’s claim to being a “pub friendly government” seems to be slipping further and further out of sight.

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Filed under Beer, Economics, Health, Politics