Minimum Alcohol Pricing. It's all for your own good...
You can’t say the Government doesn’t care. It looks after the rich by dropping the top rate of tax, and looks after the rest of us by making sure we can’t afford to drink enough to get wasted. Thanks guys.
Yesterday the Government announced a ten-week consultation into the idea of minimum unit pricing for alcohol- the same thing that is currently being challenged in the courts in Scotland. The idea is that a minimum price of 45p per unit will mean people will drink less and won’t be able to buy cans of lager for 20p.
The 45p charge is 5p per unit cheaper than the Scots are facing and would mean that a can of strong lager would cost at least £1.56 and a bottle of wine £4.22. Standard strength spirits would cost £16.44 per 75cl bottle. There should be no effect of pub prices, as half a pint, half a small (175ml) glass of wine and one 25ml shot all comprise one unit, and generally cost more than 45p anyway.
But would it work? Critics of the proposed Scottish system are doubtful of the predicted lives and hospital time that would be saved, but campaigners for such a charge are miffed at least 50p per unit isn’t under consideration. As with the Scottish charge, remember that this isn’t a tax, but a minimum charge, meaning the Government would not be benefitting financially from this (other than through increased VAT), rather than the supermarkets will be laughing all the way to the bank. Again.
A Home Office spokesman said that the plans were targeted at "harmful drinkers and irresponsible shops," adding that “those who enjoy a quiet drink or two have nothing to fear from our proposals." We reported last year that the average price of a bottle of wine in the UK was £4.55, above the minimum required charge, with £2.57 out of that amount already going in alcohol duty and VAT. Surely then the only people affected by these proposals are those willing to buy cans of ‘lager’ for 20p. And if you are that desperate for a drink, surely you deserve sympathy not punishment…
Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, told the BBC: "Most major retailers believe minimum pricing and controls on promotions are unfair to most customers. They simply penalise the vast majority, who are perfectly responsible drinkers, while doing nothing to reduce irresponsible drinking.
"The government should recognise the role of personal responsibility. It should not allow interfering in the market to regulate prices and promotions to become the default approach for public health policy."
Even assuming you do buy your alcohol with enough taste to already breach the minimum price, you might be concerned over the fact the consultation is also considering banning multi-buy deals on alcohol. These deals are favoured by some supermarkets and off-licences, and may even affect a well-known food hall’s dinner for £10 deal, given that it includes a bottle of wine.
Better start crying into your Tennants Super now…