Reports tell us that the government has abandoned plans to set a minimum price on alcohol of 45p per unit. The idea was that this would somehow stop problem drinking, but there was no evidence that it might. It was always poorly targeted, and backed most enthusiastically by those who oppose drinking per se. In fact alcohol consumption in Britain is relatively low, and has been declining over the last decade. It is by no means clear that a minimum price was even possible, given our EU treaty commitments. Some countries sell us cheap wine, and increasing its price might be ruled anti-competitive and not in accord with the single market rules. Scotland has passed such a policy, but it seems to be in trouble with the courts even before it is implemented. There is a problem of binge drinking in Britain, and of excess drinking in Scotland, but no evidence that setting a minimum price would curb it. Amid the hand-wringing and hysteria of those now thwarted in their attempt to make alcohol more expensive, the words of David Davis MP on the proposed price rise and binge drinkers came like a cool breeze of common sense.
“It won’t just hit those, it’ll hit poor people. It’ll hit people in the north. It’ll hit the pensioner having their one bottle of wine a week; it’ll hit the hard-up couple doing the same. It’s going to cost…it’s going to transfer £1billion from the public to the people who sell alcohol, and it’s not going to work.
“If you look at pricing across Europe, in Germany they sell beer at a pound a pint cheaper than they sell here. They sell in Spain the same, in France the same, and they do not have this problem. There’s a drinking divide in Britain, a cultural divide, and you will not solve it by this rather heavy-handed sort of mass effect that won’t actually stop the problem.”
People who enjoy drinking in moderation will say “bravo!”
Filed under: Updates