High prices for alcohol?

 

           The government’s attitude to alcohol is different to tobacco. Excessive alcohol consumption is reckoned bad for your health, but moderate alcohol consumption may not be. Excessive alcohol consumption can also be bad for civil order, with many some social crimes being  related to alcohol abuse.

           For this reason government does not seek to ban alcohol advertising or promotion. It does now, however, ask the question should there be a minimum price for alcohol to try to deter excess drinking.

         An enforced minimum price seems unfair. Rich people would be little affected by it, and could carry on drinking to excess. Poorer people would be hit. People with an alcohol problem might be more likely to resort to illegal means to sustain their addiction.

           The case for is based on the simple market proposition that if you raise the price less will be consumed. What is your view? If there is a minimum price, should the producer and retailer pocket extra profit? Should a higher tax be imposed?

           Is current alcohol taxation correct?

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87 Comments

  1. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Alcohol should be a luxury , not a day to day ritual to numb reality. My Asian friends do not drink alcohol and their hepatic functions are better for it. Every weekend we see teenagers getting large packs of lager in, with the intention of becoming ‘hammered’. This is not what alcohol should be primarily for. The Medical Emergency wards are full at weekends of those who could not self assess that point where the addiction takes hold .A friend of mine died a few years ago , because he started having wine regularly as a young teenager and then to ease the stress in his London job , drank whisky before presentations and so it escalates. The point is ,whether well off or poor, alcohol is dangerous in excess.
    The poor will drink Meths, cheap lager, toxic imported spirits and this is not for the enjoyment but for the end result.
    I remember in my holidays as a child when dad ordered a bottle of wine: ‘A German Hoc’ I recall, it was an event , but today it flows cheaper than the amount we have to pay for our water rates. Changing the water into wine should be reversed.
    My view won’t be popular , yet most eminent hepatic specialists would agree. Tax alcohol, Tax cigarettes, reduce tax on the necessities of life and help the poor.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Only posh tramps will be drinking meths these days have you seen the price lately? About four quid for less than half a pint in B&Q. Unfortunately lager does not work the same in DIY.

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        Really well we better tax meths even more

        • outsider
          Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

          Personally, I would prefer a swingeing tax on cant and reckon this would be a big vote winner.

        • Bazman
          Posted July 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          Everyone knows lighter fluid is a far superior drink.

    • APL
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      MBj: “Alcohol should be a luxury ”

      Eh, no.

      MBj: “This is not what alcohol should be primarily for.”

      On the contrary it is exactly what alcohol is for.

      MBj: “The Medical Emergency wards are full at weekends ..”

      True. But the sensible way to address this is to charge for treatment and where a person has refused payment more than once – jail or refusal of any further treatment. Anything else is to condone the reckless self destructive behavor.

      MBj: “The poor will drink Meths ”

      And by denying them the opportunity to purchase clean high quality alcohol you compel these people to look for less safe and occasionally dangerous alternatives.

      MBj: “this is not for the enjoyment but for the end result.”

      So if your existence is so miserable that you would prefer to spend it semi conscious then who are you or I to say otherwise?

      • Jerry
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        @APL (& MBJ): “True. But the sensible way to address this is to charge for treatment and where a person has refused payment more than once [../etc./..]

        People will just say that they have already paid, which is true, unless HMG removed excise duty from alcohol…

        • APL
          Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

          Jerry: “People will just say that they have already paid, which is true, unless HMG removed excise duty from alcohol…”

          That Jerry, is a reasonable point. Agreed they may well have contributed through excise and tax & NI to the health service.

          However, one treatment in ER might be a couple of thousand pounds, not too many people below age 25 have paid enough into the system to have covered more than one or two visits.

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        This was the tact in the hungry forties when cocaine was cheaper than food( It is written) , but cheap alcohol should not be a stop gap for suffering. These excuses will not hide social injustice.’ Let them eat cake’ doesn’t wash with me as other social injustices like homelessness. My feelings on this are equally strong. Councils should be fined if people are forced to become homeless. Taking the dignity away from people saying that this is the only way to relieve suffering is damnable in itself.

        • APL
          Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

          MBj: “These excuses will not hide social injustice .. ”

          No excuses. The working class today are little better off as a result of the ministrations of the middle class than they were sixty years ago.

          MBj: “My feelings on this are equally strong.”

          Good, then dip into your own pocket apply your own free funds and free time and make a tangible difference, I would applaud your efforts.

          Not directly related, but I have noticed more and more the prevalence of gambling advertisements on Television – I believe for that we should thank that good Christian Mr Blair.

          • margaret brandreth-j
            Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

            If you go under a bridge at night and outside shops in winter you will see homelessness go hand in hand with cheap alcohol to numb conditions.

          • APL
            Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

            MBj: “If you go under a bridge at night and outside shops in winter you will see homelessness go hand in hand with cheap alcohol ”

            I don’t dispute the fact.

            MBj: “cheap alcohol to numb conditions.”

            So lets make the remaining solace available to these sad people too expensive, just so they can appreciate the full degradation of their circumstance, sober.

            It is very likely this category of people have other more serious problems in their lives. Alcohol may be one of their problem, but it probably isn’t the most serious..

        • outsider
          Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

          “Cocaine was cheaper than food”. Well that may have been true for those who bought food illicitly on the black market. But not for the honest majority who bought their allotted ration. Food was not plentiful but neither was it particularly expensive.

          • margaret brandreth-j
            Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

            Well blame Elizabeth Gaskell ( if this is the case) for misinforming us. Then again the black market was always there.

    • JimF
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Your view is popular with me.
      Freedom to drink shouldn’t extend to the freedom to be obnoxious through alcohol abuse in the middle of towns such as Reading. Tobacco doesn’t create this problem, so taxes are an appropriate solution to reduce consumption and pay for health and preventive measures.

      For alcohol abuse, a mix of higher taxes and some kind of penalty for entering A and E with excessive hangovers or alcohol-related injury should accrue.

      Two years ago my father was in a queue, laying on a trolley in a cold corridor leading to A and E. It was 8am on Saturday morning. Ahead of him was a lad who had fallen off a wall on Friday night, and was making a fuss because he couldn’t be treated until the alcohol worked its way through. Five days later my father passed away from pneumonia.

      Alcohol is one of the causes of the NHS being in such a bad state, and the false freedoms to consume irresponsibly don’t help.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Many Asians (specifically people from East Asia) don’t drink because they cannot tolerate alcohol the same way as Caucasians. It’s believed that thousands of years ago in much of east Asia people made water safe by boiling it and making tea, while in Europe and the Middle East they made it safe by fermenting it and making beer. Due to this difference Caucasians developed the ability to tolerate alcohol, while the east Asians did not.

      • outsider
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

        Dear uanime5, Thank you for this delightful story. I do hope it is true but no-one seems to have told Japanese men.

  2. oldtimer
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    The minimum alcohol price idea sounds like another nudge initiative by those who seek to control our behaviour. The role of the state should be to optimise its tax revenues. Alcohol taxes, like tobacco taxes, are excellent revenue producers until they cross the line where it pays to be a bootleg smuggler or producer. That appears to have happened already with tobacco taxes and is now probably borderline with alcohol taxes.

  3. Jerry
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Minimum Price; forget it, it won’t work, it will not help those whop need help, only harm them (or society) even more. Those with an alcohol problem will find rob Peter to pay Paul – it was the fact that working men used to spend their pay-packets in the pubs between work and home of a Friday night that brought about the idea of child benefit and the mother having her own payment book from which she could draw from, take from source, by-pass the problem, hand to the needy.

    Tax; Far to high, in some ways, like tobacco and motoring taxes, it is self defeating, people just start thinking that because they have paid a whopping tax they have a right and will do as they please because they have “paid for it” (be that the NHS, Police or what ever).

    Availability, something you didn’t mention; Totally wrong, move alcohol out of supermarkets and the service/petrol stations etc. (it used to be banned from the latter, what changed, when?), put it back behind the specialist off licence and pub door – If that is going to cause problems with the profitability of petrol stations then stop supermarkets from selling petrol, put that back into the hands of the garage forecourts, and off set any higher distribution costs with an adjustment in the fuel duty.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Due to online shopping trying to remove alcohol from supermarkets will have no effect on consumption levels. People will just buy their alcohol from the supermarket’s off-licence website.

      • Jerry
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        U5: Err, duh, if supermarkets are banned from selling alcohol they would not be allowed to sell it on-line. U5, are you naturally short of a clue or has the heatwave got to you, good grief…

  4. lifelogic
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    A minimum price would achieve little, one can always legally brew it for next to nothing in a few days anyway and rather better beer than is usually on sale. Or obtain it illegally as you say. The tax levels are already very high perhaps 80% or so of a bottle of vodka or gin.

    Interestingly the BBC, the other day, described the new 30% tax on gas from fracking as a “subsidy” perhaps someone could explain to them that paying pv and wind companies up to 43P at one time per KWH of electricity actually worth about 8p is a huge absurd subsidy a tax of 30% is not. If they ever cut the tax on spirits from circa 80% or on petrol, I assume the BBC would describe this as a subsidy for alcoholics and car users. The language they use show their bias every time they open their mouths.

    Lots of stationary wind turbines in France mainly by the motorways, I assume for indoctrination/PR reasons rather than electricity gneration.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      In which story did the BBC describe the tax break as a ‘subsidy’. Which it is, but as you understanding of anything reported by the BBC is at best sketchy. Was it the BBC or the BBC reporting a source saying it was a subsidy?

      • Jerry
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        @Bazman: Please stop repeating the same lie, it will not make it any more true, it just makes you look ignorant of the facts, as I explained the other day. A tax break pays for it’s self (as well as handing money over to the tax man) , a subsidy doesn’t, they are not one and the same.

        • Bazman
          Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

          A tax break pays for itself? What evidence do you have for this short changing of infrastructure?

          • Jerry
            Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

            @Bazman: Simple maths me old chum, do you not understand percentages – I’m starting to think that may-be you do not…

          • APL
            Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            Bazman: “A tax break pays for itself?”

            Not least, because the tax break is intended to act as an incentive to some other ( the government considers ) desirable behavior by the companies exploiting the break.

            The benefit of the new behavior outweighs the cost to the exchequer.

            In oil exploration, the oil company gets more oil out of the North Sea, for example, from residual reserves that larger companies think un viable.

            Result: Government gets more oil tax revenue from reserves that would otherwise have been uneconomic to extract.

          • Bazman
            Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            Simple maths? Really do tell. Tax breaks pay for roads and education? How oh wise one?

      • APL
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        Bazman: “Which it is, ”

        You missed out a word there ‘not’.

        Fixed it for you.

        • Bazman
          Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

          Sterling work APL.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      @Lifelogic: Good point about people simply turning to self-brewing, even more worrying would be if such people started to dabble on the wrong side of the fence, ill-informed people trying to created the hard-stuff – that could cause the state and NHS problems that make the current situation with bing-drinking look like the aftermath of a village fate… Such activity is not illegal to protect excise revenue, but because it can so easily kill.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

        “Such activity is not illegal to protect excise revenue, but because it can so easily kill”

        I suspects it is both reasons, it can be done quite safely with the right equipment, which would be available were it legal.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

          @Lifelogic: No it can’t, as any chemist knows. The equipment, if you know what you need, can already be obtained quite legally, what is lacking is the knowledge and skill, this is one area were practise doesn’t make perfect, practise (can so easily) makes corpses…

          • Bazman
            Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

            Any central heating parts supplier would provide enough equipment for distillation lifgoic and as scientist/engineer/rocket genius you should know that.

  5. Chas
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Smokers and drinkers carry a lot of weight at the ballot box. When Labour introduced the smoking ban they lost millions of voters and the General Election. The Tories share in votes has risen in recent polls after they decided not to go ahead with plain packaging and minimum prices for alcohol.

  6. Bazman
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    The taxes on alcohol need to be reduced in pubs to encourage supervised drinking not increased in supermarkets. Does anyone seriously think that a teenager will buy beer in a pub at up £3.50 a pint or more instead of going to the supermarket? It’s like downloading music how many will pay on official sites or just download and spend the money on cider to drink whilst listening. A few paranoid middle class parents will pay for their childs music just like a few will pay for the pub.

    • Chas
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Coffee shops charge more or less the same for coffee as pubs do for a pint of real ale and are doing a roaring trade. The reason why thousands of pubs have closed is because the majority of regular punter were smokers and no business can exist when the majority of its customers are not welcome.

      • Bazman
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        This being the decline of the pub trade? The majority do not smoke. Sorry….

  7. NickW
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Many young people living at home have such high levels of available spending money that minimum pricing will not affect them in the slightest; it will however have a huge negative impact on the low paid family breadwinner.

    It will fail to punish the target miscreants and punish instead those whom the Government wishes to encourage.

    Perhaps minimum pricing on Friday and Saturday nights might be effective, with less downside?

  8. David Hope
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    There are issue about selling at a loss in supermarkets. But as it is, the government is doing better out of sales of pints in a pub than the landlord! That is clearly wrong.

    Also, as a poster on your blog yesterday said, it is continually claimed that each step is the last one, is as far as things will go, when actually the next step is being plotted. There are clearly many who’d happily see alcohol prices escalate like cigarette prices – I believe this would be very wrong. Not least because brewing is an industrial success story in Britain right now – despite the best efforts of government to kill it.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Supermarkets do not sell alcohol at loss, the prices of such things as vegetables are raised to make up for the shortfall. The pubs have been milked by the breweries and owners for rent. This is a more important factor than taxes. Do you think MacDonalds make their money from selling burgers for a quid?

      • Jerry
        Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        @Bazman: “Supermarkets do not sell alcohol at loss, the prices of such things as vegetables are raised to make up for the shortfall.

        Of course they sell it at a loss, that is what a loss-leader is, if they did not make a loss they would not have to raise the prices of other goods would they – Duh!

        The supermarkets have even admitted that they do so, hard for them not to considering the breweries also indicated that they can’t make, transport and market the product for the price the supermarkets often sell it…

        • Bazman
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:11 am | Permalink

          So as I said they do not make a loss. They do not ‘have’ to raise prices of vegetables they do have a choice of what to charge and could just raise the price of the alcohol instead or take the hit. More apologist nonsense from you Jerry.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

            @Bazman: They make a loose on the product, they buy the product for more than they sell it, do try and keep up at the back!

          • Bazman
            Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            I think we can all follow that Jerry. The point being is it right?

          • Jerry
            Posted July 24, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

            @Bazman: Glad that the penny final dropped for you, never mind that it dropped sometime last century for the rest of us…

            As to your question, actually no I don’t think it is right (and here I’m not talking just about alcohol), there are competition issues but I guess that all the time us British prefer value and connivance over worth we will carry on indulging the supermarkets in their ‘games’ nothing much will change.

  9. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    My view is this: back in 1975 when I allowed myself to be inveigled into voting “yes” to stay in the Common Market, albeit reluctantly, I had no idea that eventually it would be interfering in such matters.

    Now I find that even where there is no directly relevant EU law, including of course the legally binding judgements of the ECJ, the EU’s so-called Court of Justice in Luxembourg, our domestic policies are being so strongly conditioned by our EU membership that apparently original policy statements by ministers here can often be directly correlated with policy statements from one or other of the EU institutions.

    Obviously I can see that for some health matters such as the spread of disease there is a genuine need for international collaboration, although not just for pan-European collaboration and not necessarily through the EU.

    But when rules governing the advertising and packaging and sale of tobacco products in this country become subject to international law, specifically the subset of international law which is EU law, and when any public debate about whether or not there should be a minimum price for alcohol sold in our shops can be pre-empted and rendered nugatory by a decision of the EU Commission or judgement of the ECJ, then I have to ask why we keep electing MPs who seem to have lost much of their interest in the government of our country and the sovereignty of our Parliament and who are prepared to go along with such laws being imposed, or infiltrated, from outside.

    I recall my mother’s simple explanation of why she intended to vote “no” in 1975:

    “If we stay in then they will take us over”.

    Although politically unsophisticated, how right she was with that instinctive prediction; and how disgraceful it is that the duplicitous leaders of the three main political parties have actively encouraged that to happen, gradually hollowing out our national democracy, the very system which gave them power, even while in some cases cynically misleading the public by voicing protests against it and putting up a pretend resistance.

  10. alan jutson
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    A minimum price ?.

    Absolutely not, why should responsible people pay more.

    The answer is simple.

    Fine those who are drunk and disorderly, and make those who get so drunk they need medical care, pay for it, after all they can hardly use the excuse they have no money can they !.

    Thus those who drink to excess, should pay for it.

    £100 on the spot fines, with video evidence to prove the guilt.

    Those who want to contest the fine should be sent a copy of the film evidence, and then asked if they wish to continue to contest.

    For those who cannot pay on the spot fines (no cash or card at the time) then overnight in a cell, where name and address is taken for payment within 7 days, still no payment, then offence put on record and an attachment to earnings or benefits made..

    Time to get tough with people who are out of control.

    Could also offer an education course to be run on similar lines to speeding offences.

    If it means more policemen and more cells, then invest in them.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      Social engineering is the way forward Alan. This is true.

      • alan jutson
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Bazman

        “Social engineering is the way forward Alan”

        Would much prefer Education, but it does not appear to be working.

        Anyone who has been a victim of Drunk Violence, or who lives near a pub and constantly has their fences kicked in, or drunks using their garden as a toilet, would agree that such behaviour needs to be curtailed, we have more than enough laws in place now, but it would appear the police lack the resolve or manpower to deal with it.

        • Bazman
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          Education being a large fine that will be paid. Or prisons for drunks. I’d pay.

  11. Kenneth
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    The best example of a free market is the black market. As prohibition expands, so does the black market, which is already thriving in the UK and providing jobs for many people.

    I would suggest that, far from expanding prohibition, the government should withdraw itself from this area and go further by decriminalising most drugs.

    This way we can turn the black market white again and allow people to make grown up choices.

    If someone carries out a criminal act while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug then they should be arrested and punished.

    In my view taxation on alcohol and cigarettes should be limited to VAT only.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      I chose not to smoke cannabis years ago Ken. Who could not agree with your comment?

  12. behindthefrogs
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Taxation on alcohol should be simplified and should be at a fixed rate per unit across all types.

    Sales should be resticted to dedicated off-licences that should not be allowed to sell other goods, and public houses with a dedicated counter. The exception should be tobacco which should be restricted to the same outlets. The hours of opening of these off licences should be restricted to mid-day to early evening. These restrictions should reduce under age and all day drinking.

    There should be a minimum price of at least 45p per unit.

  13. Iain Gill
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I don’t think the government should manipulate alcohol prices.

    I do however have a problem with the city centre culture here on a Friday and Saturday night, the outrageous behaviour has gone too far, the ridiculously loud music out of the bars, the fighting, etc.

    And there is too much planning manipulation by the government forcing flats to be built above new bars etc, or allowing bars to be built in a peaceful residential block. Somebody has to live in those flats!

    I would rather see the bar culture you see in mainland Europe. Bars in Belgium shut when the owner feels like shutting, but I never see the problems we see here all the time. Indeed in a Belgian bar you sit next to an extended family, MEPs (yes really they are human eh), even police on their lunch break will go and sit in the bars for a drink (machine gun on the bar next to them sure makes you think), old and young all mixing, and music is at a level where you can still hold conversations. You can sit and drink tea or water just as easily as drinking alcohol. Sure some folk drink too much, but it doesn’t turn into running street battles and violence. Why is it so different here? I don’t think pricing is the issue.

    On the other hand some places, I am thinking of Glasgow in particular, have massive problems with alcohol induced medical problems, massively bigger than the average. Perhaps in these places special measures are needed.

    I do think all bars should be forced to give free tap water to any party of customers, for a number of reasons, this could easily be put on their licence conditions.

  14. English Pensioner
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Why can’t we just be allowed to get on with our lives without unnecessary interference. There are public order laws which allow the police to deal with drunks who cause problems in public, and they should be used. If people want to get drunk in their own homes, that’s up to them; if it causes them to die prematurely or become ill, they’re the ones who suffer. I’m simply fed up with being told what I should or should not do; don’t eat to much salt, eat your five a day, don’t have too much sugar, avoid too many fizzy drinks, watch your BMI, avoid too many ready meals; the list seems to be endless with some new advice nearly every day, usually from a government sponsored “charity”.
    Just leave us alone!!
    PS I’ll probably vote UKIP next time as I can’t imagine Nigel Farrage wanting to increase the tax on beer!

    • Norman Brand
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      English Pensioner: I agree. As another English pensioner, I join you in saying: Just leave us alone.

  15. Ian Phillips
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Minimum pricing is a stupid idea, it just hands more money to the alcohol manufacturers and retailers. If you believe that the price of alcohol is too low (I do not, but it is something that reasonable people may disagree about) then the correct response is to raise the duty, not attempt set a minimum price (which would probably be illegal under EU law in any case).

  16. Daniel Tomas
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    The proposed minimum price for booze is social engineering combined with collective punishment. Social drinking at home and in public houses is a positive aspect of British culture.

    Millions of people, the vast majority I would guess, go to the pub and enjoy a social drink in convivial company, then go home. Like wise the backyard BBQ and dinner party.

    Any problems with drinking usually involve the younger generation who have been conditioned to believe they can do as they please without consequence.

    There are already enough laws to deal with under age drinking, public drunkenness and associated behavior. All that is needed is for the police to apply these laws vigorously.

    Forcing the well behaved, law abiding social drinker to pay more for the misbehavior of the few is social engineering, collective punishment and typical of the nanny knows best bullying of the modern political class.

  17. Mark
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Tax rates on alcohol have been set so high that once again we have revenue loss to cross border shopping. Further increases risk incentivising the sale of bootleg liquor with all its added health risks from contamination, and the promotion of criminal activity.

    Trying to tackle social problems that arise through use of excessive alcohol through the tax system is the wrong approach. The problems can be divided into those with public antisocial consequences such as rowdy behaviour, or drink driving – both of which are already against the law, and which simply need to be properly policed and prosecuted (fast track magistrates court with £50-100 fines for being drunk and disorderly, pub bans etc.); domestic violence or failure to care for children etc., which can be harder to detect; and clear medical problems with diseases such as cirrhosis and alcoholism. Price does not deter an addict, but it may make them steal to afford their habit.

    Osborne scrapped the beer duty increase in March: he was right to do so on revenue grounds, as the higher rate for the previous year had resulted in lower tax revenue. Other alcohol duties are also getting close to levels that reduce revenue at the margin.

    We have to recognise that government needs to optimise tax revenue in our straightened circumstances, but that has to be set against costs that high taxes can impose in a variety of ways, such as incentivising crime, and curtailing economic activity (and thus other taxes), as well as simply interfering in reasonable enjoyment of our leisure time.

  18. Max Dunbar
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Sort out the alcohol fuelled bar-room brawls in the House of Commons first? A certain Labour pugilist from Scotland comes to mind.

  19. uanime5
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Given that France has far lower prices for their alcohol but has far fewer alcohol related problems than the UK I’d have to say that raising prices isn’t going to solve this problem (especially when you can buy a bottle of Vodka and dilute it with coke to make a relatively cheap alcoholic drink). It seems that the UK’s culture that equates getting drunk with having a good time is what needs to change.

    Also if higher prices discourage people from doing something then won’t higher tuition fees discourage people from going to university.

    • outsider
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      Spot on, uanime5. Interestingly, wine consumption seems to have fallen sufficiently in France to be a problem for the local wine industry, but the trend appears to be nothing to do with price and all to do with cultural change.

    • Chris S
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Will wonders ever cease !

      At last you have posted a comment that I agree with 100% !!!!!

      It’s so obvious to anyone who spends any time on the Continent it’s simply amazing that our supposedly intelligent politicians can’t see the logic of the argument.

      But then most of them support HS2, don’t they ?

      I rest my case.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Germany and France have large numbers of alcoholics Much of the drink problem is hidden, but still there and low drink prices play a part in this..

  20. Neil Craig
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    The sensible way for the state to regulate alcohol is by taxing it. Thus they actually get the money, whereas a minimum price needs more government employees and regulators. If the state needs more money taxing things that are bad for us seems a reasonable way to get it.

    However increases in tax would affect the ruling classes whereas minimum pricing is simply a way for the ruling classes to kick the common people around a bit more.

  21. Mike Wilson
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    As others noted on the tobacco thread, the government’s position is nonsensical. Lethal tobacco and alcohol killing by the million – yet legal and milked for a lot of tax. Drugs made illegal and a fortune spent trying to police the people who become millionaires out of supplying them. Maybe the government is jealous and thinks it should have all the money.

    This is a matter of personal choice … so, who knows what is the right position. All I would say is that when you enter A&E – if a blood test reveals that, for example, you would be over the drink driving limit – then you should pay for your treatment.

  22. John Eustace
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I suggest you spend a night out with Thames Valley Police officers dealing with town centre public order issues to get their perspective. Then spend some time in an A&E department.
    We have a massive problem in this country with excess alcohol consumption. It is ruining lives and costing us a fortune. I do not believe we can learn as a society to be responsible in the way other countries seem to manage. We are addicted and kidding ourselves. My friends from other countries are appalled by the drinking habits here. Even consumption that we regard as normal would be seen as alcoholism elsewhere.
    What would I do if I were in power?
    1. Roll back the deregulation of opening hours. It is a failed experiment that imposes huge costs on the emergency services and leaves innocent victims of drunken violence scarred for life. We are never going to be a continental cafe society.
    2. Take away the licenses from premises that serve drunk people more drinks and prosecute the owners. I think this is already illegal but go into Reading on a weekend night and tell me that it is enforced!
    3. Prohibit discounting of alcohol. No special offers, no BOGOFs etc. Supermarkets can choose their own prices but keep them fixed and prohibit selling at a loss. I appreciate most wine is now sold in supermarkets on special offers but those are mostly nonsense pretend offers that just confuse the consumer and confer no benefit. As with so many items we have just been trained to buy the discount and have no idea of the true price.

    • outsider
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      Dear John Eustace,
      While I agree with your first and second points, your distaste for discount offers does not seem relevant. If you ask the wines and spirits staff at your local top-four supermarket, they will confirm that hardly anyone buys these mass market brands at full price. So you are right that discounts are often bogus but their discounted prices are normally still higher than you need pay at (other ed)supermarket chains, which do not engage in such special offers.

    • Chris S
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      I live in a few miles outside Bournemouth which has a huge number of bars and suffers from a lot of Alcohol related problems.

      I have a simple solution :

      Every council that decides it has a drink problem would be allowed to select two areas of a suitable field about a mile outside their town, well away from any houses. These areas would be of a size appropriate to the problem and would be enclosed with very high and razor topped fencing.

      Summer and winter, anyone arrested in the town for being drunk and disorderly would be taken directly to these enclosures.

      On arrival they would be put into the relevant enclosure, one being for men and the one for women. The occupants would be left there and released only when they pass a breath test and are deemed sober.

      They would then be made to walk home.

      The Police Commissioner for the area would retain the option of using a fire hose to wash down the occupants each night at a time of their choosing. ( Local democracy in action and for hygiene reasons, obviously ).
      My preference would be at about 3am.

      I suspect the whole problem would go away quite quickly and at minimum cost.

  23. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Taxes on alcohol sold in supermarkets should be of similar magnitude to taxes on alcohol sold in pubs. The Government might do better to specify a minimum amount of taxation per unit of alcohol rather than trying to control the end user price. We should ensure that, if supermarkets want to use cheap alcohol as a loss leader, they make a stonking great loss by doing so.

    Alternatively, people might be charged for their health care at the point of consumption so that they take responsibility for their health, but that will have to wait until public opinion is ready – about 2020, I guess.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      They would just make their own and that the idea that charging the population for healthcare will make us all healthy is just a fantasy of the most silly kind.

  24. Big John
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    > Is current alcohol taxation correct?

    No it is too high.

    As I said yesterday on the tobacco article, stop the government funding these (types of ed)charities with tax payers money.

    As an example :-

    Alcohol Concern.

    UK Charity Number: 291705

    Created by the British government in 1985, Alcohol Concern wages an incremental campaign against drinkers and the drinks industry.

    Alcohol Concern supports banning happy hour, raising the price of alcohol, lowering the drink drive limit, banning glass bottles in pubs, warning labels on cans and bottles and banning TV advertising before 9pm. It described the ban on happy hour promotions as “a step in the right direction” and the introduction of cigarette-style warning labels on bottles as “a very good first step”.

    Its 2008/09 accounts show a total income of £1,137,582, of which:

    Department of Health (restricted grant): £142,000
    Department of Health (unrestricted grant): £400,000

    Big Lottery Fund: £127,275

    Total £669,275 (58.8% of all income)

    It received just £8,186 in public donations !!!!

    Reply. So who gave the rest of the money?

    • Mark
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      The most recent accounts show the Welsh Assembly and Comic Relief are big donors, and the DfE gave a large contract. Lottery and DoH funding has ceased. (Note 3) Other income is mainly derived from consultancy and training fees for courses in how to deal with alcohol related problems sold to the NHS, local government and police.

      http://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/assets/files/Alcohol%20Concern%20signed%20accounts%202012.pdf

    • Big John
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      > Reply. So who gave the rest of the money?

      Mostly, the taxpayer of course.

      The full numbers are :-

      Department of Health (restricted grant): £142,190
      Department of Health (unrestricted grant): £400,000
      Big Lottery Fund: £127,275

      But there are some donations from people who have to throw money away as part of their job.

      Comic Relief £54,807
      John Paul Getty Foundation £20,000
      Bridge House Trust £8,000

      This additional income is mostly earned from the government, as these costs will be reclaimed from the government.

      Conference & Publications £26,166
      Consultancy & Training £321,670
      Management & Administration Fees £2,724

      There seems to be an arbitrary charge for membership depending on how much they think you will pay, obviously any tax payer funded member will be paying a lot more (Reclaimable), so impossible to work out the number of members.

      Membership Fees £16,302

      public donations £8,186

      Bank Deposit Interest £10,262

      While reserching these numbers, I did notice from 2010 the Welsh Assembly Government has started donating £250000 a year !!!!

  25. Paul
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    A minimum price on alcohol is unfair for the simple reason it hits the poor who drink responsibly. It also does not deal with the real causes of excessive drinking. Those who consume too much alcohol, rich or poor, will carry on doing so. As you suggest, many poor people with a drink problem may resort to illegal means to fund their addiction – this would affect everyone in society, particularly people living in poorer areas. I understand why doctors and others support minimum pricing, but I’m against anything that would make responsible people worse off. When living standards are being squeezed enough already it is wrong to hit the responsible poor with yet another financial burden. Minimum pricing is not a long-term solution.

    • Cary
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Not true. A minimum price of 45p per unit has no impact on most alcoholic drinks. For example, a typical pint of beer has about 2 units of alchohol: where can you buy a pint for 90p these days? The minimum price regime as proposed would only affect high strength cheap booze, which only exists to service those drinking to get drunk. One is really not doing the poor any favours by making these drinks affordable.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      This of course is the sensible argument. I feel though, the sacrifices are worth it<

  26. Martin
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Education on drinking helps. The continentals, particularly youngsters, seem to handle drink better than we do and I think they may be better taught as to how to drink responsibly than we are.

    I introduced my children to alcohol quite gently and told them the old adage “Alcohol is a great slave and a terrible master”. This seems to have worked for them so far.

  27. Matthew
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    There’s a limit to what the government should do, in my view. They can point out the research and advise accordingly, but there is a time to pull back and leave people to their own devices.
    Educating young people is key.

    Many low paid working people and pensioners welcome access to low cost alcohol, to some old people; cigarettes are the only friend that they have.

    Motorcyclists suffer a high mortality rate, but the government doesn’t restrict this activity.
    Rock climbers are free to pursue their sport without harassment.
    I’ve known young people die in both of these areas.

  28. Woodsy42
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I have no problem with laws and prohibitions that prevent me hurting or disadvantaging other people and prevent them hurting or disadvantaging me – that’s what laws should be for.
    Seemingly however all I hear from government and their pet NGOs nowadays is how I shouldn’t smoke, I shouldn’t drink more than a few units a week. I shouldn’t eat saturated fats, I must reduce my salt intake. I should reduce my calory intake. I should drink more when it’s hot. I must ensure I am not obese. I should walk every day. Seems like there are more nudge taxes and publicity directed at controlling my lifestyle than there are ensuring my safety and security.
    I am heartily sick and tired of fun-free health fanatics and puritan evangalists telling me what I should do. I am not a child. I don’t lack understanding of what is good or bad for me and I am perfectly capable of making sensible decisions for myself.
    I wish they would all just f**k off and leave me alone. Stop trying to run my life with nudges, higher taxes and plain pack nonsense and get on with running the country and the economy so that we can enjoy having a life!

  29. Mark
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    A footnote:

    I found that the budget included the following forecasts for alcohol consumption:

    ……………..Beer/
    …………….Cider…….Wine…..Spirits
    2011-12….53,205….13,901….1,131
    2012-13….50,771….13,900….1,091
    2013-14….48,778….13,610….1,041
    2014-15….47,502….13,943….1,041
    2015-16….46,531….14,532….1,054
    2016-17….45,533….15,220….1,066
    2017-18….44,583….15,985….1,082 (Spirits in hl alcohol; rest khl)

    I note they forecast an upturn in consumption by champagne socialists in 2015 onwards, while beer cider and spirit sales are to remain depressed. I wonder whether the Treasury have allowed sufficiently for the differential effects of emigration of beer-swilling Brits and their replacement by teetotal immigrants, or whether they just think that relentless price increases will do it.

  30. outsider
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,
    The lobby for a minimum alcohol price is a rather strange alliance between the NHS and the licensed trade against supermarkets. The NHS dislikes supermarkets because people buy unhealthy food ( as well as healthy food) there. The tenanted licensed trade dislike them because they have undercut pub prices, which are pushed up by having to buy their beer at way above market price.

    To succumb to this lobby would be a classic case of the rich taxing the poor.
    Typical losers would be ordinary families on modest incomes (already shrunken in real terms) and pensioners. Young single men and women in jobs, with relatively high disposable incomes, would have no need to change their drinking habits, although I suspect that they account for more than their fair share of public disorder and A&E admissions.

    The state is a bit short of revenue compared with spending, so any rise in alcoholic drink prices should be a tax across the board on alcohol content, not a subsidy to pubcos and buckshee profits to supermarkets.

    As others have said, however, the drinking problem is one of culture rather than price, exacerbated by the extension of drinking hours granted to lobbyists by the previous government.
    People in power do not seem to understand that a large chunk of the population feel extremely stressed and/or frustrated and powerless over their own lives and seek relief in some socially accepted (if sometimes illegal) drug. The elite continuously crack down on these drugs of the dispossessed as well as on “the opium of the people”. They would do better to build a society that respected everyone or, since they are incapable of that, to come up with alternative social drugs that had fewer unwelcome side-effects.

  31. Andy Baxter
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood sorry to burst Parliament’s bubble BUT:

    Either it isn’t or it is against EU law to impose a minimum price for alcohol?

    Take your pick Parliament?

    On the face of it, any attempt to impose minimum pricing, unless authorised by EU law, is a restriction on the free movement of goods and could be regarded breaching EU law – especially if it had a discriminatory effect on other EU member states who would just go to the ECJ and get a ruling.

    However, while this might have to be tested on the facts of the case, there is a “get out of jail free card”, that the UK Parliament could invoke “public health” as a justification.

    It might have to prove the case with THE EU commission, but it is for the commission in the first instance to decide not Parliament.

    That is why Cameron and his ilk are back peddling on this and plain packaging for tobacco products, there is no other reason that we are subject to a foreign rule.

    Open your eyes sheeple!!! open yerrr…eyes!

  32. Atlas
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    My answer is simple: NO to Alcohol minimum pricing. Such moves are all part of the Cameron/Miliband/Clegg Nanny State – or is this something brewed up at an EU meeting of health ministers? – They are always finding ways to inflict themselves upon us.

  33. Robert George
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    50years ago the price of a scotch was a little more than double that of the price of a pint of beer. Now they are about the same. I think the old price ratio should be re-established through taxation. Younger people could then less afford the high cost spirits and revert to less alcoholic beer and lager. I suspect that this would lead to a reduction in drunkenness and anti social behavior.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      A strange thing is that a half bottle of vodka is now cheaper than a packet of fags. Can this be right?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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